Hardly a week goes by without an insurance company, a big corporation, or one of their lobbying groups complaining about “the cost of litigation,” usually prefacing the word “cost” with hyperbolic adjectives like “soaring” or “exploding,” with the implication that, somehow, injured plaintiffs or their lawyers are to blame. Yet, whenever we see an actual example of a party engaging in absurd tactics to make litigation more costly and difficult, it always turns out that the defendant or their insurance company is to blame. Although trial is typically the most expensive part of any case, the vast majority of cases settle, and so discovery is typically the most expensive part of most cases. (Earlier this week I turned in the updates for the Third Edition of our Pennsylvania Civil Discovery book, so discovery is on my mind.)
The railroad company Norfolk Southern, for example, spent over $250,000 last year funding non-railroad anti-consumer lobbying groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and National Association of Manufacturers, all of which have spent ample time decrying the costs of litigation and blaming trial lawyers for it.
Pannunzio v. Norfolk Southern, reported on by The Legal Intelligencer earlier this week, involves a train hitting a delivery van that was on the tracks. The driver sued the train company, alleging the train was going too fast, that the train didn’t sound a horn as it approached the crossing, and that the tracks were improperly designed, making it hard to see oncoming trains. The plaintiff’s claim as a whole is by no means simple –— they’re going to have to spend tens of thousands of dollars, maybe more, on experts testifying about how a railroad crossing should be designed — but the basic facts of the lawsuit are obviously quite simple, such as how fast the train was going and whether it sounded a horn or not.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was, say, a camera on the train recording all that?
Continue Reading Toot! Toot! All Aboard the Baloney Train!