Lisa A. Rickard

In 1789, American forefather Benjamin Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Fast forward to 2009, and it seems that some of our elected officials are trying to amend Franklin’s two certainties by adding a third: lawsuits.

The U.S. is already the most litigious country in the world, imposing a tort cost of around a quarter of a trillion dollars each year.

In this day and age where billion dollar price tags are tossed around D.C. without the bat of an eye, the cost of America’s lawsuit system still hits home – a 2008 study revealed that every family of four pays more than $3,300 every year due to our out-of-control lawsuit system.

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With unemployment climbing and household budgets being stretched thin, you might think that lawmakers would try to fix our damaged civil justice system that rewards plaintiffs’ lawyers at the expense of everyone else. But you would be wrong.

In fact, some in Congress are attempting to pass laws allowing trial lawyers to file even more lawsuits in courtrooms across the country. In major pieces of legislation introduced this session of Congress, provisions have crept in to expand the cost and reach of America’s lawsuit system.

Legislation to overhaul the U.S. financial sector? Check.

In order to increase government oversight of consumer financial products, such as mortgages and credit cards, a bill was introduced this summer to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, or CFPA. Among numerous other powers, the legislation would grant CFPA the ability to restrict or ban mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer financial services contracts – forcing more disputes into an already overburdened court system and giving trial lawyers a new source of revenue.

The climate change bill? Check.

The House-passed cap-and-trade energy bill would allow lawsuits to be filed against makers of home appliances, lighting products, plumbing fixtures, and heating and air conditioning products for violations of the sweeping new energy conservation standards created under the bill.

Medical device legislation? Check.

Lisa A. Rickard

Lisa A. Rickard serves as president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), where she provides strategic leadership to ILR's comprehensive program aimed at changing the legal culture that has resulted in our nation's litigation explosion.

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