The Right Focus on Tort Reform


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The recent headlines about Merck's Vioxx withdrawal and the FDA's move to ban ephedra have brought a lot of media attention to the growing area of drug litigation.

On April 12, 2004 the FDA published a rule banning health supplements that contain ephedra alkaloids. The FDA concluded that the limited short term weight loss effects were outweighed by possible heart problems and stroke risks. The market gap caused by the banning of ephedra has been filled by many new companies that are marketing products similar to ephedra. However, these “ephedra alternatives” may not be any safer than the banned ephedra that they replace.

The FDA's ephedra ban, and Merck's Vioxx withdrawal have been hot news topics. These drug recalls and ephedra banning have brought lawsuits from many different angles. Obviously, some people think that some of the lawsuits will be frivolous. In fact, there has been a lot of news during the last decade about “frivolous lawsuits” brought by injured consumers against large companies for defective products. However, according to one report from Public Citizen ( cfm?ID=12369 ), businesses file many more times the amount of lawsuits than consumers do and are more likely to be sanctioned by a court for bringing a frivolous claim.

State governments have enacted tort reform which has capped potential damages for certain types of claims in some states. George W. Bush's state of Texas implemented tort reform in 2003 to cap medical malpractice liability. George W. Bush has continued to push for tort reform nationwide since he took office.

The real question is, if businesses are the ones who are generally taking too much of our courts’ time- why has there been such a push for individual tort reform? Is it possible that injured individuals are not a group of organized people with continuous business interests that actively lobby for tort reform? While frivolous lawsuits are a concern for everyone, shouldn't tort reform really focus on the parties who are bringing most of them?


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Richard Martin is a contributing writer at . is a collection of lawyer articles and other resources.


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