Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Recent reading: litigious Americans

Eric Bennett Rasmusen & J. Mark Ramseyer, Are Americans More Litigious? Some Quantitative Evidence: In what I consider a disqualifying argument, the authors begin the paper with the example of the elderly woman who sued McDonald's after being seriously burned by the company's coffee to show how ridiculous American lawsuits are. As someone reviewing the film Hot Coffee said, if you've ever used this case as an example of over-litigiousness, you have a moral obligation to take a look at her burns. Here's a small picture. At least the authors do note in text that the jury's award was reduced by over 75% by the judge, which many people don't bother to mention. The authors say "More curiously, even prominent law professors found good things to say about $2.86 million for a coffee spill." I'm more curious why they think this verdict--based, before it was reduced, on a few days' of McDonald's revenues from coffee--is so obviously terrible that it speaks for itself as a condemnation, rather than a vindication, of the American justice system.

They also have some stuff to say about class actions, and the availability of damages and fees for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Spoiler: they don't like them either.


Jeff said...

Agreed. Disqualifying. 190 degree coffee is absurd.

Mac said...

Another mistake - it lists the United States as having 302 Traffic Deaths per car.

That number is clearly wrong .. at least I hope it is - but what is the correct metric?


Liz said...

I think this is absolutely a ridiculous piece.

Full disclosure: after the ADA whining, I have to say that I immediately started taking it less seriously. What is the real issue here? That we have laws and regulations which are meant to help others? How terrible that we're slightly inconveniencing "normal people" in order to accommodate (most) people! And how terrible that people have ways to require businesses to make themselves accessible! Disability advocacy is not exactly a lucrative field--these Chipotle-style cases are the vast exception. (If it were a lucrative field, maybe I'd be able to find a job in it.)