Presenter: James Copland, Director, Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute and Author of Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street Comments: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), Ranking Member, House Committee on the Judiciary; Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary; Victor Schwartz, Partner, Shook, Hardy & Bacon; Co-author, Prosser, Wade & Schwartz's Torts
At a cost of over $250 billion annually, tort litigation directly consumes almost two percent of gross domestic product—an amount, as a share of the economy, that is two to three times as expensive as lawsuits in Germany, England, and Japan. The general public understands the need to reform the legal system: eighty-three percent of Americans think that the legal system makes it too easy to assert invalid claims. Popular support for tort reform is stymied by the trial-lawyer lobby, which controls the congressional leadership with outsized political giving. It is unsurprising that the litigation industry—whom we call Trial Lawyers, Inc.—has kept tort reform out of the health-care reform bills: lawyers' congressional-campaign contributions in the last election cycle substantially exceeded the combined total of all political donations from doctors, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs, hospitals, and nursing homes. Lawyers have not only blocked most federal efforts at tort reform but are also working to coax goodies from Congress that pad their bottom line—through proposed special tax breaks, attacks on private arbitration contracts, and efforts to expand state juries' ability to trump federal regulation.