A woman has sued Google Maps for providing her walking directions that led her into a busy traffic intersection where she was hit by a car and seriously injured. On the surface, this sounds like one of those ‘wacky’ lawsuits that the tort reform crowd likes to use to criticize our system of justice. I will withhold opinion on whether the lawsuit makes sense or not, I am not familiar with Google Maps and I don’t know the intersection in Utah where this accident occurred. Maybe Google has liability, maybe it doesn’t. I do offer this: the system has checks and balances that permit a judge to dismiss a lawsuit if it has no merit.
You read that correctly: The system has checks and balances that permit a judge to summarily dismiss a case if it has no merit. Judges exercises this discretion, freely. Now, anyone can file a lawsuit; after all, we don’t know what is being alleged until suit is filed. Filing fees are a profit center for the court the case is filed in; if someone wants to waste a filing fee on a ‘frivolous’ case, he/she can do so. The more important question, after the case is filed, is whether the litigation has enough merit to sustain itself in front of an experienced trial judge with an overcrowded docket.
The Google case occurred in Utah at a busy, perhaps confusing, intersection. But no one made this woman enter the intersection on foot; she chose to do that. If Google Maps left her no choice and she has to get to her chosen destination, maybe there is liability. That is for her lawyer to prove and the judge to determine. That is true of every case filed in American courts; this one is no different. What is different about this case is that it sounds ‘funny’ and the tort reform crowd in America will have a field day with it. Mark my words.
Did you ever think to ask, why do these critics of our civil justice system care about ‘frivolous’ cases? Tort reform proposals (proposals that limit access to our civil justice system) usually take the form of a low cap on damages. These tort reformers, or "Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse", or critics of "jackpot justice" or those who rally against "frivolous lawsuits" are not really seeking to stop the filing of what George W. Bush once called "junk lawsuits". They can’t stop those filings; once again, we don’t know what’s in a lawsuit until a lawyer files it. What these groups are really after is a way to limit recovery in serious lawsuits. If they can make you think that the civil justice system is a ‘joke’, maybe you won’t realize that they are taking your constitutional rights away. After all, we, any of us, are just one tragic life event away from being the person suing for a death in the family or a serious, disabling injury. No, the vast majority of lawsuits are not "funny".
So, why do these "Citizen" groups rally against "lawsuit abuse", you ask? The answer is simple: M-O-N-E-Y. Because these groups are not really "citizens" at all; they are corporate interest representatives and lobbyists. They rally against lawsuits because they represent corporations who are trying to limit the amounts that you can recover in a serious lawsuit about serious injuries or problems that are caused by negligent corporations or are the responsibility of insurance companies. The low cap damages limits they lobby for are usually $250,000 and why would anyone need a low ‘cap’ on damages in ‘frivolous’ cases?
If you have lost your family breadwinner in an accident or to a defective drug or product that could have been made safer, is $250,000 enough compensation? If you are paralyzed for life? If you have suffered disabling injuries that prevent you from ever working again, is $250,000 enough? What if you have disfiguring scars or burns? How much does lifetime medical cost?
Corporations, their executives and employees make serious mistakes for which the legal system holds them accountable, unless there is tort reform. If a drug causes cancer or heart disease or bone loss or other serious side effects and the company knew of this danger but failed to warn the public, it is responsible for serious damages (except in Michigan, where tort reform has resulted in complete immunity to the drug manufacturers). What do these serious events have to do with ‘funny’ lawsuits? Everything!
You see, corporations want to be able to make products that kill and seriously injure people without incurring any penalty or serious consequence. They don’t want to pay for their mistakes; that is who these "Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse" people are. If these corporations are not held responsible to the fullest extent of the law, where is the accountability? Where is the deterrent to future conduct? They want a free pass; they want corporate welfare. And the taxpayer will be left with the bill in the form of public assistance or disability benefits. Is that what you want?
Tort reformist strategy is to parade out "funny sounding’ lawsuits, like the Google lawsuit, and make suggestions that the legal system is broken and that lawyers are to blame for society’s woes. Do lawyers make dangerous and defective products or drugs, then try to cover up the defects and limit their exposure? Do lawyers provide alcohol to intoxicated people who, they know, are about to get behind the wheel of a car? Do lawyers provide a product or service (insurance) that penalizes you for using it exactly the way you are supposed to? Do lawyers take your money for a product or service (insurance) only to fight with you, delay and deny you, when you decide to make use of it? Do lawyers make products that harm the environment? Do lawyers build rigs in the ocean, without adequate safety devices, damaging our precious natural resources? No. All lawyers try to do is try to hold all of these companies accountable to you, the people, by using the tools of our civil justice system. And, by disguising themselves as "Citizens Against", these corporations and corporate interest groups are using ‘funny’ sounding lawsuits in an attempt to avoid having to suffer the consequence of serious ones. If real people are suffering with real injuries and/or death, why shouldn’t the corporations who caused them be held accountable?
So, you will be hearing a lot about the woman who sued Google and how this is an example of why we needs controls on our legal system. Do not ignore the tort reform idiots; instead, rally against them. Speak out against these types of restrictions on our system of justice. If a candidate for office takes money from corporations and speaks out in favor of restricting lawsuits, speak out against him and cast your vote for the other guy.
A corporation is not a "citizen". It cannot pain and suffer. It cannot be paralyzed. It cannot suffer an amputation. It cannot suffer a debilitating and devastating injury. It cannot feel; it cannot love. Is it any wonder that it doesn’t care about anything but profits and money?. Where is honesty and integrity? Where is corporate responsibility? Where is corporate accountability? It is not human, and that, my friends, is the problem. Where is the humanity?
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.