Junk Lawsuits

Our civil justice system is broken. Personal injury lawyers are clogging our courts with frivolous lawsuits and unharmed plaintiffs. There is growing evidence that some personal injury lawyers have teamed up with so-called medical experts to manufacture abusive junk lawsuits propped up by junk science. These lawsuits erode the credibility and value of expert witnesses in our courtrooms and delay and dilute justice for those who have legitimate claims. It seems like everyday, we read in the news about abuses of our court system, both serious and wacky. All have serious costs and consequences.

Junk Science = Junk Lawsuits.

Junk science is questionable, unfounded or misleading information that is put forth as medical or scientific fact. Junk science is medical or scientific claims that are not supported by fact and not validated by others within the scientific and medical community. Some warning signs of junk science include:

  • Doctors and scientists who provide expert opinions outside of their areas of expertise or without having the necessary educational background and training.
  • Doctors or scientists who are paid on the basis of their findings.
  • Sensational “findings” and “studies” that are released through the media without the endorsement of other scientific or medical experts.

Junk science can needlessly confuse and scare consumers and is often used to support junk lawsuits and questionable claims. These baseless cases clog our courtrooms and delay justice for the truly injured. Additionally, so-called “expert” witnesses who peddle junk science undermine the integrity of our legal system, the medical profession and qualified expert witnesses.

A survey of physician specialists commissioned by Sick of Lawsuits and the American Tort Reform Association found:

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 physician specialists surveyed (88%) believe there is a problem with medical expert witnesses providing testimony on issues beyond their specialties.
  • More than half (57%) have personally seen or heard medical expert testimony in a courtroom they believe was inaccurate or based on questionable science.
  • Three-quarters (76%) believe medical expert witnesses have had a negative impact on the integrity of the medical profession.
  • Nearly all physician specialists surveyed (95%) support the creation of a code of ethics to govern physicians’ conduct in providing expert witness testimony.

Junk lawsuits are no laughing matter.

Personal injury lawyers make a living from inventing new ways to sue anyone who can pay. Some of the lawsuit schemes they conceive are so ridiculous that we find ourselves laughing, but the cost of this kind of lawsuit abuse quickly ceases to be funny. All lawsuits, even unsuccessful ones, cost money and the public foots the bill.

Below are some examples of recent frivolous lawsuits that would be funnier if not for the accumulated cost to citizens they represent:

  • The chalupa loving chihuahua was all over national news when an Alabama law firm filed a class action suit against Taco Bell, claiming that its seasoned beef was only 30 percent actual beef.  Taco Bell immediately took precautionary actions with full page ads in national newspapers to disclose its 88 percent beef level, and regain consumer confidence. Although the lawsuit was promptly withdrawn, it cost the company over $3 million in defensive advertising. (CBS News, April 19, 2011)

  • The E-Trade talking baby commercial saga recently added a new character: “Lindsay,” the milk-aholic baby.  Of course, Lindsay Lohan immediately jumped to the conclusion that this character was referring to her.  She sued E-Trade for her the suffering that the commercial caused her—a mere $100 million worth.  Lohan claims that the reference to the first name Lindsay relates to herself, similar to Madonna or Oprah.  E-Trade claims that the name was just chosen because of its popularity, along with it being the name of a member of the advertising account team.  No word on whether the team member is suing for her own $100 million. (The New York Post, March 9, 2010)

  • A 26-year-old inmate in Illinois, Jonathan Pinney, claimed that his rights were violated multiple times during his arrest, so he is suing multiple government agencies.  This suit isn’t lacking in creativity, either.  Beyond the hefty price tag of $50 billion, Pinney also requests his own country complete with 5,000 citizens, foreign sovereignty, and diplomatic immunity.  What would be “acceptable” according to this man?  Alaska. (Huffington Post, July 20, 2011)

  • This isn’t the first time Oprah has been sued, but it sure may be the most creative.  Recently, Charleston resident Emily Braxton filed a suit against Oprah Winfrey.  Braxton claims that Winfrey stole her Social Security funds and used them to pay the US Treasury for nuclear warfare.  Braxton has a bit of a track record in the Kanawha court system, having filed over 12 suits in the last ten years, with defendants such as T.D. Jakes and George W. Bush.  All of these suits have been dismissed.   (The West Virginia Record, May 25, 2010)

  • In Utah, a woman following her Google Maps directions was hit by a car.  This story seems quite unfortunate until you read further.  The woman, Lauren Rosenberg, followed the directions exactly, which means she walked across a busy highway.  Also, she is suing Google, blaming the company for not warning her that crossing a highway might be dangerous.   (Mashable.com, May 30, 2010)

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fast facts

Even after adjusting for inflation, tort costs per capita have risen by a factor of nearly eight between 1950 and 2009. (The 2010 Update on U.S. Tort Cost Trends, Towers Watson, 2010)

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Sick of Lawsuits' new television commercial, "Tango," highlights the partnership between some personal injury lawyers and so-called expert witnesses hired to manufacture junk science to prop up junk lawsuits.

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