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Put Brakes on Frivolous Lawsuits

This news story was published on March 3, 2012.
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From Senator Charles Grassley –
Against a staggering national debt that’s surged by $5 trillion in just the last three years, voters will decide in November who will take the reins of Washington’s runaway spending.  In the meantime, the fragile economic recovery is struggling to gain traction.  Job creators in the private sector are vulnerable to rising gas prices, expiring pro-growth tax laws and swelling health care costs that influence hiring, investing and spending decisions.

Consumer confidence is a primary factor that affects the U.S. economic outlook.  Paying $4 (or more) for a gallon of gas will arguably cause more households to pull back on spending money at their local restaurants, hair salons, retailers and charities.  Higher shipping costs also eat into the profit margins for Main Street businesses, leaving less money for hiring workers.

While rising gas prices capture the spotlight in an election year, there’s another burden on the American economy.  The costs of frivolous lawsuits are invisible price tags that add up to higher prices for consumers and another burden for businesses struggling to stay above water.

In an era when America is looking for economic growth to take root, billions of dollars are wasted on frivolous lawsuits that siphon money away from job creation.  Frivolous claims also clog an already burdened legal system and delay the resolution of lawsuits that have merit.

Attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits today can do so without much fear of any consequence.  These claims force innocent individuals and businesses to choose between years of litigation, court costs and attorneys’ fees, or paying a settlement.  It’s a waste of time, money and resources.

A culture of suing at the drop of a hat is an albatross for start-ups and small businesses operating on tight margins.  Small businesses rank the cost and availability of liability insurance as second only to the cost of health care as their top concerns.  While it’s no secret that small businesses are the number one job creators in America, it’s not so well known how frivolous lawsuits block their road to prosperity and their ability to create jobs.

The U.S. legal system relies on Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to curb frivolous filings.  Unfortunately, Rule 11 was watered down in 1993.

As the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ve introduced legislation that would help put the brakes on frivolous lawsuits by restoring the strength behind Rule 11.  My bill, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, would install three reforms to bring more accountability to the U.S. tort system.

First, my bill would reinstate mandatory sanctions to deter the offending party from filing a frivolous claim.  Currently, when a judge finds that a lawsuit is frivolous, it’s in the judge’s discretion whether to impose sanctions.

Second, my bill would require judges to impose financial sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits, including attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the defendant.

Third, my bill would reverse a rule that allows attorneys to avoid sanctions for making a frivolous claim by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.

Law-abiding Americans with a legitimate legal grievance are entitled to their day in court.  But unscrupulous attorneys who litigate for jackpot justice stand in the way of that.  Frivolous lawsuits need to be weeded out of the system.  Putting the brakes on frivolous lawsuits that damage the economy and clog the legal system will go a long ways towards balancing the scales of justice, upholding the rule of law, and improving the public good.

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5 Responses to Put Brakes on Frivolous Lawsuits

  1. AnEyeForAnEye Reply Report comment

    March 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Senator Grassley is not trying to stop people from filing legitimate law suits for things like malpractice or wrongfull death or injury. He is trying to stop people (and attorneys) from filing lawsuits which have no merit. If someone has been wronged by another, they have every right to sue. But if they are filing a law suit merely to bully or embarrass and harass someone–or to get money for some frivolous reason, then those lawsuits need to be curtailed. This is not a case of peasants against rich and powerful. Rich and powerful people can file frivolous law suits just as peasants can be sued in a frivolous manner. Anyone can be a victim. It’s not about poor against rich, or rich against poor, or even about keeping people poor, ignorant and powerless. It’s about letting people with legitimate grievances have their day in court and stopping those who misuse the system.
    Sure I’d like to sue Blimpy because they scrimped on the meat on my sandwich, or sue the model who shares my name for millions of dollars because she’s used my name to earn that, but that is not what our justice system is designed to do. Mr. Grassley’s proposed legislation would put an end to such ridiculousness.

    • Charles Assley Reply Report comment

      March 4, 2012 at 10:14 am

      That’s what they’d like you to believe…but what they’re really after is to stop people from filing any sort of grievance against rich and powerful interests. Using the term “frivolous” is subject to interpretation. Sure, I’d like to see reforming the amounts awarded. Awarding someone 10 million or 100 million dollars for some issues which don’t even effect life or limb is ridiculous, but we can’t stop lawsuits from proceeding because the amounts won are out of control. Judges should adjust the amounts won, not stop cases from being heard. If anything we need more cases to be heard because there’s a lot of unresolved injustices in this world which could be adjusted and stopped by being heard in front of officials with legal power. I’d call awarding someone a million dollars for spilled hot coffee frivolous, not because the issue wasn’t important to resolve, but because the judge sent the message to McDonald’s to adjust the temperature of their coffee while benefiting one individual. I’m sure there have been thousands before that person who could have used a million bucks as well. This is the problem with our legal system.

  2. Charles Assley Reply Report comment

    March 3, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Of course the rich and powerful want to stop the peasants from calling them on their wrongdoing. Grassley is a mouthpiece for uber wealthy corporations in Iowa. What these people really want is to stop anyone from coming after them when they do wrong. Doctor’s want to be able to kill people on the operating table or in their office and not be affected by it. Chemical companies would love to subject workers to nasty dangerous conditions and not face any consequences. This is all part of a drive to return to the Big Boss years of the 1800’s and keep people poor, ignorant and powerless. I’ve got something to say to Grassley: **** You!

    • Emanresu Reply Report comment

      March 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

      “Charles Assley”…. obviously some chemicals have damaged your thinking process…..are you a crack head, cocaine sniffer, marijuana smoker, or just plain old booze hound? There are so many frivilous lawsuits out there that clog up the judicial system. America is a “litigation happy society” just to make a stinking buck! This causes prices to rise on everything! Certainly there are ligit lawsuits that deserve a settlement, but the number of frivilous lawsuits is out of control. Are you gonna “sue your momma” for your stupidity…..or maybe “sue your daddy” ! Good luck with that one Assley

    • Katie Reply Report comment

      March 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      Look up the meaning of the word frivolous. It doesn’t include malpractice or criminal negligence, Mr. Assley. Yours was a frivolous post and so was Mr. Emanresu’s.