Yet another case for tort reform

There was a tragic accident in Aurora, Colorado, two years ago. A toddler in an ice cream shop was killed when a pickup crashed through the shop’s window. Also killed were the driver and a passenger in the pickup.

Now the parents of that toddler are suing the driver who caused the accident … and more than 20 other people. Yep, all those people share responsibility for the child’s death. Or so the avaricious parents and their even-more-avaricious attorney would have you believe.

Apparently the illegal immigrant, Francis Hernandez, who caused the accident, isn’t wealthy enough to be worth suing all by himself. Besides, he’s been convicted and now faces 100 years or so in prison. So the grieving parents are going after anyone and everyone else they can think of, especially those with deep pockets.

In addition to Hernandez, their suit names:

  • The car dealership that sold a vehicle to Hernandez (or someone with his license), for selling to someone with an invalid driver’s license
  • The sales agent who actually closed the sale
  • The parents of Hernandez’s common law wife, who might have provided the vehicle to Hernandez, even though they knew his license was invalid
  • Xcel Energy Company, because the cover of their switch box on the side of the building flew off during the crash and hit the child
  • The Colorado Department of Transportation and the City of Aurora for having widened the adjacent street (in 2003) to within 7 feet of the shop
  • The parent company of the shop, because the shop’s wall facing said street was glass and did not contain safety barriers
  • The owner of the property where the shop sits
  • The family of the deceased driver of the pickup, because somehow it was their fault the driver was high on meth at the time of the crash
  • Several law enforcement agencies, because they had failed in the past to report Hernandez to federal authorities as a possible illegal immigrant

No saint, Hernandez. In the country illegally, he was doing about 80 mph in a 40 mph zone and driving without a valid license. In the past he had been arrested and jailed numerous times for traffic violations, failure to appear in court, and giving false identification. Only 25, he now stands convicted of 19 criminal charges related to the crash and will be sentenced in April.

A grieving family can be forgiven for looking for someone to blame. What’s not forgivable is suing people who clearly aren’t to blame and forcing them to spend time and money defending themselves. The only liable parties in this case were the two drivers. One of them is dead, and the other is going to prison. Too bad. It’s likely no one will get rich … this time.

___________

Yes, this is also another great example of why we need to tighten up our immigration laws, but that’s another post or ten.

7 comments

  1. I cannot even imagine how it would feel to be in this families position, losing your child. But are they seriously suing all those people? Seriously? This is tragic but the law suits need to stop. Chalk one more up for illegal immigrants though, my GOD! Unbelievable!
    ___________
    Yep, seriously. I linked the Denver Post’s story.

  2. It is another story. I would be interested in knowing the entire case. Has it made it do discovery yet? To often you hear stories like this in the news (if it bleeds it leads) but in the end the plaintiff loses and the judge orders the plaintiff to pay court cost to the defendant or the judge just throws the case out or like the McDonald’s hot coffee case the award is seriously reduced.

    Also this means nothing without any context. One means nothing. It is foolish to make policy decisions based on one case or one hyped media case. It works great for the ego and people’s prejudices. For example, if 1 in 10,000 cases are frivolous do you make it hard for those 10,000 to seek justice?

    This seems to be the way of politics and conflict media these days, playing on the fears and angers of people.
    ________
    The accident itself was very real and heavily reported here in Denver at the time. If you checked the link in the story, you’d have seen the suit was only filed in the last day or two, so there are no court proceedings yet.

    Certainly I’m not suggesting policy decisions be made on the basis of this one case. I’m saying that based on thousands of frivolous lawsuits filed over decades, we need tort reform. Caps on outrageous awards are not going to deny justice to anyone. But they might discourage fortune hunters and ambulance chasers from clogging the courts with frivolous suits.

    In the end, frivolous lawsuits cost all of us. They clog our court system, they drive up malpractice and liability insurance rates and in turn, for example, cause doctors to start practicing defensive medicine.

    Yes, judges can throw out cases, reduce awards, and penalize plaintiffs. Unfortunately, many of them don’t. And even when they do, a lot of harm has already been done. Inconvenience, legal fees, time away from work, adverse publicity, increased insurance premiums — the repercussions are endless.

    1. “I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education.” – Thomas Jefferson

      Democracy was not designed to be efficient and cheap.

      Let’s look at how a tort trial typically works. The injured party has a lawyer (you know, the “bad guy”). The doctor/corporation/defendant has a lawyer (or lawyers). There is a judge. And then there are twelve (sometimes six) ordinary citizens. – the jury.

      The injured party’s lawyer has a chance to tell his client’s story. The lawyer(s) for the doctor/corporation/defendant has a chance to tell his(their) client’s side of the story.
      The judge tells the jury what the rules they have to apply to the case are.

      Then the jury makes a decision.

      It is this last group of people the Republicans are really complaining about. They are the ones deciding whether to award money to the person who claims s/he was injured.
      But to hear the Republicans tell the story, you would think that there is only one lawyer in the courtroom (the injured person’s lawyer), all the judge’s are corrupt or asleep, and the injured persons’s lawyer is sitting with the jurors as they deliberate, telling them what to do.

      Of all medical mal what percentage are frivolous? Of all defensive medicine what percentage does not add value? It would be arrogant to believe that all lawsuits do not add a benefit to society.

      Also, why is it that the common man is smart enough to vote, smart enough to participate in the free markets, smart enough to keep more of their money, smart enough to run their lives, smart enough to create one of the most innovative countries in the world but somehow they are not capable on a jury to determine how they want their society to behave or not capable of understanding complex issues?

      Is it because only the idiots serve on juries? Is it because the trial lawyers are from a different planet and have special powers to mesmerize people? So we believe government is in our lives to much and yet we want a national cap set on pain and suffering and punitive awards, taking away states rights and the rights of the people of the state to determine how best to setup their society.

      So are the people smart enough to determine right from wrong on juries or are they not? If they are not then maybe we should not let them vote or participate in the stock market or maybe the free markets.

      85% of all Americans believe their are to many frivolous lawsuits. If that is the case then why do they not do something about when they are on the jury or is it the “other” fifteen percent that only sit on juries. Common sense tells me that something smells here. (I guess that depends on your belief in people – basically good or bad.)

      If doctors are truly driven by fear rather then reality we should take away the common mans basic right to use the justice system closest to their community or maybe educate them as Thomas Jefferson said instead of letting the media scare all of us (if it bleeds it lead if it doesn’t find a knife).

      Measuring the cost of defensive medicine.
      http://www.humana.com/providers/defensiv.asp

      “After reviewing thousands of patient records, medical researchers have estimated that only 2 to 3 percent of cases of medical negligence lead to a malpractice claim.
      http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2009/09/real-cost-medmal

      Five percent of all doctors were responsible for 43.3% of all medical malpractice payments.(Pg. 42)
      http://www.npdb-hipdb.hrsa.gov/pubs/stats/2006_NPDB_Annual_Report.pdf

      What about this case?
      http://www.lectlaw.com/files/lit13.htm

      How much is this womans breasts worth, $250,000? What about if they were your testicles removed from a mis-diagnosis of cancer
      “…A pathologist mixed up her tissue sample with that of another woman who did…”
      http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2003/04/25_stawickie_paincap/

      “Physicians widely believe that jury verdicts are unfair. This Article tests that assumption by synthesizing three decades of jury research. Contrary to popular belief, the data show that juries consistently sympathize more with doctors who are sued than with patients who sue them. Physicians win roughly half of the cases that expert reviewers believe physicians should lose and nearly all of the cases that experts feel physicians should win. Defendants and their hired experts, it turns out, are more successful than plaintiffs and their hired experts at persuading juries to reach verdicts contrary to the opinions of independent reviewers.”
      http://www.michiganlawreview.org/assets/pdfs/105/7/peters.pdf

      “There’s a lot of money to be made in owning imaging machines,” said Dr. Richard Strax, president of the Texas Radiological Society. “You can buy a relatively inexpensive second- or third-hand MRI machine for a few hundred thousand dollars and make millions on it.”
      http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-imaging_centers.ART.State.Edition2.4bbe13c.html

      “After reviewing thousands of patient records, medical researchers have estimated that only 2 to 3 percent of cases of medical negligence lead to a malpractice claim. For every notorious error — the teenager who died in North Carolina after being given the wrong blood type, the 39-year-old Massachusetts mother killed by a chemotherapy overdose, the newborn twins (children of the actor Dennis Quaid) given too much blood thinner — there are dozens more. You never hear about these other cases.”

      And this particular error happened eight times previous to this in one year. I wonder if someone would have sued this hospital the first time this happened this would have changed things. How high would the award have had to been to change the process. Thankfully this happened to a high profile person such as Dennis Quaid so that this can get publicity.

      California has a $250,000 cap. Was this the reason people did not sue prior to this case? No lawyer would take their case because they would lose money?

      Maybe if we just sit by long enough everyone will be prevented from using state tort laws to hold people accountable. Why do we want to hold educators in our public schools accountable but when it comes to our lives well that is a different story. 100,000 people are killed each year by mistakes. 100,000 people killed every year and not even a mention on cable news.

      _______________
      This comment was caught by the spam filter because of all the links.

      I am not suggesting the dismantling of our entire legal system or anything of the sort. But I do think it’s a damn shame, a waste of time and resources, for this family to sue most of the parties named in their suit, and for those parties to have to endure what they’ll probably have to endure because some member of the family, or the family attorney, was creative enough to think up all those possible defendants. In this case it look likes the attorney’s doing: “Someone must have done it, and someone must pay.” My money’s on an ambulance-chasing lawyer. If their professional organizations would sanction them and impose fines, we see a lot less of this nonsense. They dishonor the profession.

      I cited doctors only as an example, and I’m fully aware of the statistically low percentage of justifiable malpractice claims. But that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of doctors do feel they must practice defensive medicine. And some, especially in high-risk specialties, stop practicing altogether because of extreme insurance costs and exposure to law suits. With doctor shortages in so much of the country, we can’t afford to drive out of practice the ones we have, or discourage potential new ones from entering the profession.

      I don’t know how to fix the system. But I know it needs fixing. Those frivolous suits are being filed against you and me, and they hurt us and society.

      You sound like someone with a personal stake in this. You wouldn’t be a personal injury lawyer, would you? Nobody can throw down a handful of citations faster than a lawyer.

  3. While I think most of those suits are ridiculous, I definitely think there is merit in sueing the local law enforcement for not reporting him to ICE. Colorado has become a ‘sanctuary state’ and now these ridiculous policies that protect illegals have claimed the life of a two year old.
    ______________
    I couldn’t agree more. As it is, I can barely contain my anger about illegals in this country. If my child had been killed by one, especially one who’d been arrested numerous times but never report to ICE, I’d become the worst nightmare of every one of those immigration officials here and of the idiots in DC who do nothing to fix the problem.

    1. I believe this should be the single-most important issue in the Governor race this year. Hickenlooper has a lot of questions to answer about his policies before voters just hand him the entire state.
      _________
      He seems very personable, but isn’t he the one who declared Denver a “sanctuary city”? (I don’t follow local politics nearly as much as I should.) I won’t vote for anyone without studying their positions very carefully.

  4. I am furious with a Tort of $100,000 max since my a son is disabled from a police officer who hit him going 86mph and not on an emergency call.
    Son was pulling out of a day care.

    What the F is up with that? My son had just turned 21. How the Hell is he to live with this Fin Tort BS?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s