Over on Twitter, where all the major debates of our time are reduced to the length of text messages, I got into a discussion with Ted Frank. For those of you who don’t know Ted Frank, he’s a prominent “tort reform” advocate. Ted and Walter Olson are among the only “tort reform” advocates who offer substantive commentary and aren’t just whining hypocrites, which is why you’ll see them (as Point of Law and Overlawyered) in my blogroll over to the right.
One thing led to another — like text messages among adolescents, Twitter discussions rapidly devolve either into mutual admiration or mutual destruction — and I criticized him for always advocating “substantive policy” that was usually little more than an excuse to deny injured persons compensation. In response, he challenged me to name “a non-substantive policy [he has] propounded,” to which I responded that his “injury plaintiffs should always lose” arguments were an example. I read his blog; whatever the issue is, he’s always against injured people and in favor of negligent corporations. I then challenged him in return to give five examples of jury verdicts over $1 million (or appellate court decisions) in favor of injured plaintiffs, with which he agreed.
I don’t think I’m being hypocritical on this point; I’ve been more than willing on my blog to discuss where I thought a plaintiff’s case was rightly dismissed (see #2 and #8 on this list of drug companies’ favorite court decisions of 2011, see this post concluding that Arthur Alan Wolk’s case against Walter Olson was rightly dismissed, and see my recommendation that it be made harder to file patent infringement lawsuits). I didn’t consider this a particularly difficult challenge: you don’t have to look far to find a company recklessly destroying people’s lives in the name of greed.
For example, just last week a brain injured woman in California won a $20 million jury verdict against commercial trucking company J.B. Hunt. In the case, the big rig truck driver ran through a red light, broadsided her at 35 to 40 miles per hour, then cowardly fled the scene, leaving her for dead. Did I mention that the driver had been fired twice before by J.B. Hunt, including for running over a fire hydrant and flooding an intersection, and that he had been fired from multiple trucking jobs over the past decade for safety violations, violent behavior, and attempting to cover up accidents? Scrooge trucking company offered only $2,000,000, far less than the woman’s future medical expenses, to settle the case.
Frankly, I don’t think it takes much to admit that J.B. Hunt deserved to get walloped in that case, both vicariously and directly, or to find similar cases where, gosh darnit, the plaintiff was right to bring a lawsuit and deserved more than a million dollars.
Ted Frank responded to my challenge with a list:
1. Dewey v. Volkswagen AG (3d Cir. 2012).
3. Gutierrez v. Girardi, 194 Cal.App.4th 925 (2011).
4. Burrow v. Arce, 997 SW 2d 229 (Tex. 1999).
5. Rufo v. Simpson, 103 Cal.Rptr.2d 492 (2001)