Are you one of those Americans who say it's too easy to file a lawsuit? As I can tell you from personal experience, it's anything but. The canard that U.S. courts are jammed up by litigious jerks is based on anecdotes spread by corporate propaganda.
We do need "tort reform" -- but we should make it easier to sue, not harder.
What about all those "frivolous lawsuits" you're always hearing about? You hear about them because deep-pocketed corporations run TV ads complaining that they're being victimized by predatory trial lawyers. The truth is, big companies don't want to be held accountable in the courts for their misdeeds.
Twenty-eight states and D.C. have passed anti-SLAPP laws. On paper, they sound great. A "SLAPP" (strategic lawsuit against public participation) is a lawsuit the plaintiff doesn't think he'll actually win. The purpose of a SLAPP is to harass you by forcing you to hire a lawyer and tie you up in court. It's an intimidation tactic sometimes used by big companies to silence individual whistleblowers and critics. Is the problem really widespread? No one knows. No one has done a serious study.
In fact, proponents have never come up with any statistical evidence that anti-SLAPP laws deter frivolous lawsuits.
What most people don't know is that judges are good at ferreting out frivolous lawsuits before they get very far. If you get sued, the first thing your defense lawyer will do is file a "motion for summary judgment" -- a request that the judge throw out the case because it's weak. Between this and other methods of winnowing out bad cases, at least 95% of civil claims never make it to trial.
The dirty secret is that American courts have created so many hurdles to sue that it's become daunting for all but the most determined plaintiffs to pursue justice.
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