We Won’t See You in Court: The Era of Tort Lawsuits Is Waning - ABI

Americans, reputed to be the most litigious people in the world, are filing far fewer lawsuits, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. Fewer than two in 1,000 people — the alleged victims of inattentive motorists, medical malpractice, faulty products and other civil wrongs — filed tort lawsuits in 2015, an analysis of the latest available data collected by the National Center for State Courts shows. This is down sharply from 1993, when about 10 in 1,000 Americans filed such suits. A host of factors are fueling the decline, including state restrictions on litigation, the increasing cost of bringing suits, improved auto safety and a long campaign by businesses to turn public opinion against plaintiffs and their lawyers. The nationwide ebb in lawsuits, which confounds the public perception of courts choked with tort claims, has broad ramifications for businesses, doctors, patients, lawyers and the courts themselves. Companies and insurers on the receiving end of such lawsuits welcome the decline of what they regard as a lawsuit culture in which lawyer-driven litigation increases costs to both business and consumers. Trade groups that represent these firms have long pushed for laws to raise the bar for filing lawsuits and rein in damages, portraying a large chunk of tort litigation as a drag on the economy that burns scarce judicial resources. At the same time, the falling number of tort filings, coupled with the broader decline in civil jury trials, has some judges concerned that Americans with garden-variety cases no longer see courts as an affordable way to seek redress for their injuries.

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