2010 Resolution – eliminate abusive lawsuits

As an editor of an online daily news journal, I read a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo about some person filing suit against another; demanding compensation for some of the most ridiculous circumstances you can imagine — and I’m sick and tired of it.

Today, it seems like whenever you get your toga in a knot, you are expected to be handsomely compensated and never work another day in your life. Apparently we are turning out too many lawyers in Florida because they have taken to the airwaves scraping for business; employing omnipresent legal referral services and beguiling slogans — and these misguided litigants are becoming their bread-and-butter.

The most recent “Lawsuit Climate” poll conducted by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform ranks Florida as one of the worst states in the nation for the fairness of its litigation environment.

Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa Rickard said, “We are bringing these stories to the public in Florida, which faces high unemployment and a bad litigation climate, as a reminder that lawsuits can hold back the small businesses that we are relying on to create jobs.” And, I say, “It’s about damn time!”

Abuses of Florida’s legal system and the courts, undertaken to extort money from anyone for any reason, or none, in the hope that the victim will have sufficient capital or insurance to surrender a settlement instead of paying the cost of litigation, are unconscionable and must be stopped.

In movie theatres in Tampa and Orlando, a public awareness campaign aims to show how abusive lawsuits affect small businesses and workers in very real ways. Through the launch of a series of movie trailers that portray lawsuit abuse victims, The Institute for Legal Reform is bringing public attention to the outbreak of make-believe, unfounded actions as part of its nationwide “Faces of Lawsuit Abuse” campaign.

One trailer playing in Florida features a family-owned Michigan foundry that was sued by a man who had filed 23 previous lawsuits. The plaintiff alleged that the foundry, Acra Cast, was responsible for contamination on his cars and at his home.

Acra Cast has always been in full compliance with environmental regulations. It was later discovered that the plaintiff did not own some of the cars he claimed compensation for, further, he had disposed of the carpets and cleaned the house siding before evidence could be collected. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed after almost three years in court but at significant cost, including almost $20,000 out of Acra Cast’s pocket — a large sum for the small company.

In addition to movie theatre trailers, the Institute for Legal Reform campaign also includes a national television, radio, and online advertising effort.

“The lawsuits filed against the small businesses featured in this campaign cost time and money, which could have been used to grow their companies and create jobs,” said Rickard. According to the Small Business Administration, 52% of lawsuits target small business, the economic engine that creates 64% of America’s jobs.

So, in 2010 more than ever, when I can identify examples of lawsuit abuse in our area, Historic City News will expose them. Chronic complainers, misfits and carpetbagger charlatans who are looking for ways to score a fast buck on the heels of the taxpayer and honest businessman, beware.