A team of three leading scholars from top U.S. universities has discredited a study done by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) titled “Jackpot Justice: The True Cost of America’s Tort”, which calculated that the nation’s tort system imposes an annual “tort tax” of $9,827 for a family of four in the United States and also raises healthcare spending in the country by $124 billion. Now, a team of reputed scholars comprising Tom Baker of the Pennsylvania Law School, Herbert Kritzer of William Mitchell College of Law and Neil Vidmar of Duke Law School, has countered the PRI study debunking the figures that appear in PRI’s annual “state tort index and rankings.”
These three scholars say in their work, “Jackpot Justice and the American Tort System: Thinking Beyond Junk Science,” that PRI’s claims are not only “highly dubious,” but are without scientific merit and present a highly misleading picture of the American tort system and the costs associated with it.
These three law professors have also revealed that the source of PRI’s so-called calculation is a discredited study by insurance consultant Tillinghast Towers Perrin. The professors note that not one of PRI’s numbers in terms of tort costs comes from prestigious academic publications or reports that are subject to peer review by independent experts. On the other hand, these experts’ critical report on the PRI study was critiqued by a blind peer review.
I agree with our friends at the American Association for Justice’s President Kathleen Flynn Peterson that PRI’s report highlights claims that are hopelessly skewed and inaccurate. These claims have been used by industry giants and insurance companies over several decades to undermine the importance of the civil justice system. To read AAJ’s complete press release, please visit http://www.justice.org.
John Haber, chief executive officer of AAJ, has also pointed out that the PRI studies show clearly that there is no correlation between tort reform and costs. While PRI found that Colorado ranks first in tort reform laws, it also ranks the eighth highest in costs. Again, New Mexico ranks 44th in tort reform laws, but has the sixth lowest costs. So PRI’s study is not only flawed but contradicts its own theories and conclusions.
There is no question that big oil, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies have spent millions to undermine and destroy the civil justice system by funding groups such as PRI. It is no secret that both PRI and the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) are funded by these industry giants. These and other studies, which the law professors accurately refer to as “junk science” or “junk research,” show that tort reform is simply a mechanism for these large corporations to dodge accountability in the courtroom and turn the tables against average, every day Americans.
This new study by legal experts is valid because it is balanced and objective. This report’s central message is that the tort system needs to be viewed as a whole – in terms of its costs as well as its benefits. The tort system has its flaws on one hand. But more importantly, it upholds and protects consumer rights and plays a significant role in preventing injuries, compensating victims of negligence and holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions.