Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mitt's "tort" b.s.: the Utah experience

At the end of tonight's GOP debate, candidates were asked about energy independence. Mitt Romney got the last word. He started off reasonably, noting that we need to invest a lot more money in the cause. Then, apparently realizing that he had not yet emitted all the GOP buzz words, he swerved into tort reform. American corporations spend more in "defending tort suits than in research and development," he said disgustedly.

How many things are misleading about Mitt's statement? Let us count the ways:
  • Far, far more commercial lawsuits -- businesses suing each other or suing individuals -- are filed than personal injury lawsuits. Consider Utah, for example. Last month, more than 300 lawsuits were filed in Salt Lake courts (state and federal). Of those, about 16 percent were personal injury. The rest were all contract / commercial. Does Mitt support a restriction on lawsuits by corporations? That would sure unclog our court system.

  • Most commercial lawsuits cost far more to litigate than personal injury suits. For example, attorney fees on both sides of an intellectual property lawsuit ("you stole my trade secrets") often exceed $1 million dollars. Fees to defend most personal injury suits are less than 10 percent of that.

  • Notice that Mitt did not say "personal injury." He said "tort." Guess what "tort" lawsuits include? Investment fraud, conversion (theft) of trade secrets, interference with economic relations, etc. That's right--"tort" suits includes businesses suing each other. Slick, Mitt.
We realize that most people listening to the debate, including local and national media, won't look beyond the torttorttort battle cry, but what the heck; just thought we'd mention it.

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