A recent column in Forbes called our litigation system and “the explosion of frivolous lawsuits” in our country “one of our economy’s most profound weaknesses.” The piece, which urges readers to support legislation or reform that seeks to put a stop to abusive litigation, argues that the fear of litigation in our country limits freedom, economic growth, and innovation. The author, Carrie Lukas, says that this legal environment discourages the growth of businesses and other entities and drains the resources they would otherwise use to conduct the research and investment that’s necessary to innovate and progress. The article discusses patent trolls as a main example to call for legal reform, but there are many other toxic trends in this country.
One of these trends is the abuse of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Most would agree that the ADA was created with the best of intentions: to ensure those with disabilities have the same access and opportunity as all other citizens. However, trial lawyers are filing thousands of lawsuits against small businesses on behalf of plaintiffs that may or may not exist, purely for financial gain, all under the guise of increasing compliance with the law. We see this happening all over the country – particularly in California and Florida. This trend is resulting in businesses laying off employees and, in some cases, even shutting down permanently. ADA laws were meant to make businesses more accessible – not run them into the ground.
That is just one example of lawsuit abuse in this country – there are countless more. This problem must be fixed. One of the most elementary things we can do is simply show up for jury duty when called. Jury duty no-shows continue to be a problem plaguing our court system. A study from California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse demonstrated that, during a three year period in California, nearly 2.5 million jury summons went undeliverable or people failed to appear for jury service. Serving as a juror is integral to our legal system and it guarantees that we are judged by a jury of our peers – those who have a stake in local justice and keeping the courts fair.
We are all legal consumers in one way or another, and we all need to be educated and informed about our current litigation environment as well as alternatives to litigation. These alternatives to resolving a dispute do exist – for example, arbitration, which provides a faster, simpler and less expensive alternative to resolving disputes through litigation. Some personal injury lawyers are looking to eradicate arbitration, as they have a vested interest in limiting its use: reducing arbitration means more lawsuits, and more profits for trial lawyers while the rest of us pay the price. We must not let this happen.
It’s important that we educate ourselves, know our options, and show up for jury duty when called. We must also demand that our policymakers focus on reform that will continue to protect us while ensuring lawyers cannot continue to abuse our courts to get quick cash.