What cases are really working our courts?

What cases are really working our courts?
By Robert L. Jaskulski
August 2007

It is awfully difficult to tell what the truth is these days.  With leaders and role models in nearly every facet of life sending out non-stop, self-serving versions of reality we all face a difficult time sorting it out.

Let's check in on some of the recent high profile searches for the truth.  Barry Bonds is currently headlining the news and the truth about his possible use of steroids seems to be elusive at best. Our last two American President's legacies will include major doses of  "truths" involving either the existence of weapons of mass destruction or non-existence of relations with that woman.  Oh, and let's not forget, that your retirement account at Enron is not in danger.

In the end most of us rely on our court system to sort out the truth and dispense appropriate justice. The sad thing is that even the great American justice system is not immune from the lies.  With the constant claims that frivolous lawsuits are jamming up the court system, you would think that our court system would be clogged with fraudulent claims of injury by insurance scam artists, but you would be wrong.

Ever wonder what kind of cases our court system spends most of its time handling?  In a review of 2006 Wisconsin Court Filings divorce (21,072), foreclosures of mortgages (16,489), money judgments (14,245) and paternity cases (13,865) were the leaders. I doubt many of us would consider divorce a "frivolous" lawsuit, more likely that a few were the result of frivolous marriages.

To be fair there were 4,560 filings related to personal injury in automobile cases.  The vast majority of these cases, however, involved legitimate claims of injury placed into suit because of an insurance carrier's refusal to offer a fair settlement prior to litigation.  And the supposed "devil of all lawsuits," the dreaded medical malpractice case, resulted in only 13 trials in Wisconsin in 2006.  Not exactly the epidemic of frivolous lawsuits some would have you believe.

So why is it you are constantly hearing about greedy trial lawyers and frivolous lawsuits wrecking our civil justice system?  Enter nice sounding organizations like the (fill in the name of the state here) for Lawsuit Reform, that tell the public the sky is falling and it is the fault of attorneys who represent injured consumers against powerful corporate interests.  These same groups, by the way, are funded by large corporate interests (like insurance companies.)  Coincidence?

Whether you talk to trial attorneys like me, who represent injured consumers, the defense lawyers who represent insurance companies, or the trial judges who occupy the courtrooms throughout the State of Wisconsin, you will hear the same story:  lawsuits are not jamming our court system and the sky is not falling.  I suggest that, just as common sense will guide you to the truth about Barry Bonds, you might think twice about whether those crying over holding corporations accountable might just be the wolf in sheep's clothing.  And if you need just a little more convincing, consider that it was Enron's own Ken Lay who formed Texans for Lawsuit Reform - and we all know that he was looking out for the little guy.

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