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Origins And Benefits Of The Tort System In America

Most people learned in Civics 101 that the Constitution places limits on the power of the government. Providing a monarch, or dictator, with ultimate authority to decide issues in governing a country eliminates the possibility of individual freedoms. Moreover, the Constitution creates significant checks and balances on each branch of the government to protect individual liberty.  Having access to the courts – and juries --to address civil disputes did not originate on this continent. Scholars indicate that juries developed in early civilizations. However, many agree that the direct roots of the American jury system arose in England in the Twelfth century.

As the colonists sought independence from the crown, the framers determined that the tort system and civil juries were vital in a country founded on freedom. The original text of the Constitution created the judicial branch, but remained silent on the issue of the civil jury. That drew protests from many who believed that juries serve as a vital check and balance on government power, as well as on the rich and powerful.  The Seventh Amendment and the Bill of Rights were developed to ensure that the tort system and civil juries would be available for individuals to resolve their differences in a civilized manner.

Understanding tort reform and its potential consequences, Part 3

We have discussed the issue of tort reform in a variety of ways. Unfortunately tort reform has become a recurring topic that males it into the public debate without any significant premise for its need. Concerns over health care costs, the potential for so-called frivolous lawsuits and a fear of a possible runaway jury are frequently the pegs that reformers rely on to argue to limit the constitutional rights of injury victims, while immunizing negligent actors from liability for the catastrophic harms they cause.

Tort law and tort reform: What is the answer?

Understanding tort reform and its potential consequences, Part 2

Researchers generally recognize three waves of tort reform. The most recent wave occurred between 2002 and 2005. Nine states across the country enacted laws to cap damages in medical malpractice cases. Then, as now, proponents of plans to immunize medical professionals from being held liable for their negligence have claimed that tort reform is necessary to promote good health.

The arguments take different forms. Some so-called tort-reformers have argued that jury awards in medical malpractice cases drive up the costs of health care. Other say that medical malpractice insurance costs reduce access to medical care as doctors flee rural areas and smaller communities due to their insurance rates.

Understanding tort reform and its potential consequences, Part 1

In any area of public concern, lobbyists, politicians, big business, and pundits alike, often turn to catchphrases that serve to undermine open and full discussion over a specific topic. As our nation is struggling to find ways to address the rising cost of healthcare there are some who suggest that tort reform is necessary to protect public health.

Tort reform is not a new concept. The phrase itself, however, suggests that a problem exists that needs correcting. The slogan, tort reform, was devised in order to entice individuals to waive an indispensible constitutional right.

Understanding the importance of the jury in civil trials, Part 2

The United States has a long tradition of respecting the right to have a jury of peers participate in resolving disputes. Few other countries look to juries to decide facts, relying on other systems involving government authorities to decide the fate of people in criminal and civil cases. In the last post we discussed the foundation of our jury system in civil cases in the United States. Here, we will discuss the importance of the jury in preserving freedom and democracy.

Controlling Special Interests And Partisan Politics In The Jury Room

The founders believed that the right to a jury was indispensable. As we mentioned in the last post, partisan politics often create strife in the election process. Special interests have a strong voice in state legislatures and Congress. New laws are frequently enacted in a knee-jerk response to a single event to apply blanket restrictions or limits on the freedom of the people based upon a single event, without regard for the unique facts of that event, leading to unintended consequences under different facts in a future case.

Understanding the importance of the jury in civil trials, Part 1

As we move into 2017, the political landscape across the country remains in turmoil. Last year experienced a tumultuous campaign that people on both sides of the aisle agree highlighted that a strong partisan rift exists in America. In fact, in naming "The Person of the Year" in 2016, the cover of Time Magazine indentified the country as the "Divided States Of America." It is no secret that partisan politics are often driven by special interests. The courts, on the other hand, are supposed to mete out justice without regard to partisan politics, special interest pressures and government oppression.

A Jury Is The Voice Of The Local Community In Serving Justice

Before our country was founded, the colonists in North America were governed under the law of England without representation in the British Parliament. Most people are familiar with the story of the Boston Tea Party as a protest against taxation without representation. However, the roots of the jury in America in certain civil cases are also tied to the lack of representation in parliament. Cases at law in the colonies involved a jury of peers who decided the facts according to local customs and understanding of the law - standing between the power of the King and the colonists.

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