The Origin and Consequences of Frivolous Product Liability Lawsuits
Keglewitsch, Josef, Jr.
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As timeless as all of his artistry is, perhaps no. statement of Shakespeare's is more reflective of modern attitudes than the infamous "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." This sentiment seems to be a recurrent theme in contemporary thought, as it is echoed in the speeches of Dan Quayle and in an uncountable number of lawyer-bashing jokes. Riding the crest of this controversial wave is the newly evolved legal domain of product liability. With our continuing industrialization and commercialization comes a host of complicated questions of duties and liabilities that must be resolved by our legal system. Presently, the law governing product related injuries is itself fraught with defects, enabling meritless claims to acquire high dollar payoffs. On any given day of the week, Americans can open up the newspaper to find a headline lamenting yet another million dollar verdict for some seemingly trivial injury. The costs to businesses, consumers, and taxpayers are mind-boggling and an end is no where in sight. And, while it is presently fashionable to place the blame solely at the feet of America's much beleaguered attorneys, the crisis and its causes run much deeper. While legal scholars and economists are quick to espouse remedies and analyses derived from their respective fields of study, the only way a realistic and exhaustive approach can be achieved is through combining their efforts into a truly comprehensive dissection of the dubious lawsuit debacle. Though revered for its uncommon recognition of the role the average citizen plays in our justice system, jury trials have recently come under fire for contributing to the "strike-it-rich" mentality that seems to pervade our legal institutions. To put it in its simplest terms, we put the incredibly complicated task of evaluating our society's most difficult disputes in the hands of individuals ill-equipped to comprehend the issues, let alone resolve them. This problem is particularly acute· in product liability cases, where technical issues of design and manufacture are the core of the defense's case.