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    Very Senior Member Gawain of Orkeny's Avatar
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    Default Stupid lawyer tricks

    Stupid lawyer tricks
    Mona Charen (archive)

    July 1, 2005 | printer friendly version Print | email to a friend Send

    The Heartland Institute (Chicago) does its bit for the gross national blood pressure by tracking the outrages of the world's trial lawyers. The May newsletter offers the following examples:

    A jury in New Jersey has awarded $850,000 to a man who got drunk on New Year's Eve and passed out in a snowbank. It seems that two local police departments responded to a 1 a.m. call from an anonymous observer who thought he had seen a man collapse outside a restaurant. Police searched the area and found nothing. Nine hours later, in daylight, a passerby found Frederick Puglisi, who was then revived by police and rushed to a hospital. As Mike Kelly reported in the Bergen Record, ". . . police considered charging Puglisi with drunkenness, but opted not to. Ramsey Police Director Joe Delaney said in a newspaper account at the time that Puglisi had probably learned a lesson already." Not quite. Puglisi sued both police departments, claiming that frostbite damage to his right hand was their fault for failing to conduct a more thorough search. The jury had originally awarded Puglisi $1 million but decided to reduce the prize by 15 percent due to his contributory negligence. Another judge later reduced it by half.

    So there it is. You get blind drunk, wander outside in 22-degree cold to find cigarettes, pass out in a snowbank and then sue the police for not finding you sooner. Is this a great country or what?

    Actually, that's a serious question.

    If a drunk can get almost a million bucks, how much do sympathetic plaintiffs pull in? In Milwaukee, an 84-year-old man who was paralyzed in a car accident received $17 million. Who was to blame? Well, the driver of the car was a volunteer for the Legion of Mary, a Catholic lay organization. He was delivering a statue of the Virgin Mary to an invalid at the time of the accident. Lawyers persuaded the jury that the volunteer was an employee of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and assigned damages accordingly.

    Meanwhile, in Mississippi, federal prosecutors are racking up indictments against individuals who falsely claimed to have been harmed by the drug Fen-Phen. The Clarion-Ledger reports that Gregory P. Warren recruited clients for Schwartz and Associates -- that is, he recruited people who would claim to have been harmed by Fen-Phen even if they had never in fact taken the drug. Twelve others have already pleaded guilty to filing false claims.

    In California, a train conductor who claimed that his drinking problems were exacerbated after a crash won $8.5 million from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company. Patrick Phillips, a 52-year-old conductor, received minor head injuries when a Burlington Northern train crashed into the commuter train he was driving. After the accident, he was treated and released from a local hospital after two hours. But Phillips claimed that his alcoholism worsened in the years following the crash, leading to alcohol-related dementia. Burlington Northern agreed to settle the case out of court.

    The tort system is corrupting. By rewarding -- in cold cash -- irresponsibility and a tendency to blame others for unavoidable misfortunes, we are eroding our national character. We are not alone, of course. Great Britain, the home of the stiff upper lip, has plowed new ground.

    Walter Olson (overlawyered.com) describes a recent case:

    "Carl Murphy, 18, of Merseyside, England, has received 567,000 pounds for injuries sustained while criminally trespassing on the roof of a private warehouse in 1996, from which he fell 40 feet, sustaining multiple injuries. Murphy, who has convictions for robbery, burglary and assault, 'received his compensation after suing the company that owned the warehouse. He claimed that if the perimeter fence had not been in disrepair, he would not have been able to gain entry and suffer his injuries.' Although groups representing victims of crime expressed anger at his getting a sum 50 times higher than a murder victim's family could expect to receive from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, Murphy was unapologetic about his windfall, saying he planned to buy 'a few houses and a flash car' and [adding] 'this money is mine now and I'll do what I want.' Murphy 'was expelled from two schools in just over two years after his recovery, and his family blamed the fall for his bad behavior. His mother, Diane, and her partner, Kevin Parsons, both 36, are currently serving three years in prison for setting up a heroin and crack cocaine business from their council house.'"

    It sounds like a joke. Would that it were.
    I lost at lotto. After getting hit by a car I waited to long to sue. Yes I can still sue the driver but the lawyers say I could have gotten a lot of money if I sued the FD he was working for . They go afte who ever has the deepest pockets. Again its a lottery system. These stuoid laws suits get millions of dollars while Im even my therapy has been canceled because I missed a doctors appointment the insurance comahy wanted me to see. My neck and back are ruined for life and now my doctors stopped seeing me because they cancled my insurance. Life is not fair thats for sure.
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    Member Member bmolsson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    What can we say, The Amercian Way ...

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    Don't worry, I don't exist Member King of Atlantis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by bmolsson
    What can we say, The Amercian Way ...
    do other countries not have this same problem, cause its really getting on my nerves.(not you the suing )

    Did any americans(or non-americans) here about that little girl who got 15-million dollars for having three fingers cut off at dillards. 5 million dollars for each finger!

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    Things Change Member JAG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    I do not believe any other country has it fractionally as bad as you have it over there - and may I add I am sure we are all very happy with that fact!

    Over here you get the odd case but in reality it isn't that bad.
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    GARCIN: I died too soon. I wasn't allowed time to - to do my deeds.
    INEZ: One always dies too soon - or too late. And yet one's whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the summing up. You are - your life, and nothing else.

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    Don't worry, I don't exist Member King of Atlantis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    The one good thing about it is that it really does keep the big busnesses in line.

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    Jillian & Allison's Daddy Senior Member Don Corleone's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Well, before we all go off on a tangent about lawsuits, let's ask an expert.

    Aurelian, I'm sure you saw nothing wrong with a woman getting $1.5million US for dropping her hot coffee in her lap. What is the rationale for rewarding people for their own incompetence?
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    Don't worry, I don't exist Member King of Atlantis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Corleone
    Well, before we all go off on a tangent about lawsuits, let's ask an expert.

    Aurelian, I'm sure you saw nothing wrong with a woman getting $1.5million US for dropping her hot coffee in her lap. What is the rationale for rewarding people for their own incompetence?

    Who's aurelian? If you were talking to me then yes i see a lot wron with that as you would see from my first post. If you werent talking to me then i still see alot wrong with that.

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    boy of DESTINY Senior Member Big_John's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    now i'm here, and history is vindicated.

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    Don't worry, I don't exist Member King of Atlantis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    So im guessing don was talking about an argument from another thread..

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    Very Senior Member Gawain of Orkeny's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Aurelian is a law student or something like that. Or working as a helper in a lawyers office. Im probanly not giving him enough credit but I dont think hes a lawyer yet.Pindar is also a lawyer I believe.
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    Don't worry, I don't exist Member King of Atlantis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Ok now i get it

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    Jillian & Allison's Daddy Senior Member Don Corleone's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    I actually thought Aurelian, Dhepee Pindar and God's Pet Monkey were all lawyers. GPM is Australian and practices law there. Dhepee hardly ever logs in anymore. Pindar is on the judicially conservative side (less legalism, favors torte reform, etc).

    That leaves Aurelian, who comes in and tells us all how stupid and ignorant we all are and how glad we should be that our torte system works the way it does. I wanted his take on the above cases.
    "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    I actually thought Aurelian, Dhepee Pindar and God's Pet Monkey were all lawyers.
    Lawyers eh ? join the line , behind the politicians , and await your time of execution .
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    Altogether quite not there! Member GodsPetMonkey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Atlantis
    do other countries not have this same problem, cause its really getting on my nerves.(not you the suing )
    Litigation over here is no where near as bad as it appears to be in the US (the whole coffee cup crap would never have gotten off the ground over here) but it is becoming progressively worse. There are already calls for Tort reform to counter any more 'progression' in this field. However, ambulance chasers and the like (which even amongst lawyers are considered scum) are getting more and more TV advert time, so it is only a matter of time before the seemingly stupid becomes reality.
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    Don't worry, I don't exist Member King of Atlantis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Once the suing starts it only speeds up.....

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    Member Member Spetulhu's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    In many civilized countries lawyers aren't allowed to take cases for a percentage of the possible loot. They have to charge you by the hour, something that helps keep these things in order.
    If you're fighting fair you've made a miscalculation.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Oaty's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Crazy!

    This lawsuit is a bit better, but about 5 years old. A WWII veteran sued the government due to his alchaholism and demanded VA benifits for it. Anyways the I thought it was a all a BS scam until I heard the facts. He was stationed in an outpost for 2(?) years in the middle of the pacific. A very small uninhabited island. So what supplies did the miitary send in. All alcahol as bottled water did'nt exist and soda was probably pretty limited then. Have no idea what he got out of it.
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    Very Senior Member Gawain of Orkeny's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    So what supplies did the miitary send in. All alcahol as bottled water did'nt exist and soda was probably pretty limited then.
    Huh? How hard is it to put water in a bottle or a wooden keg? How did people store it on ships back in the 1600s? Also soda was very availavle back then. Everyone had a soda bottle to make drinks. I remeber all my older relatives had them and used to make all kinds of drinks.
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    Chief Sniffer Senior Member ichi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    What's the difference between a lawyer and a prostitute?


    A whore will stop if you die

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    Scruffy Looking Nerf Herder Member Steppe Merc's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    My mom also got messed up by an accident. Only now is she accually starting to heal, and the accident was years ago...
    I do think that the whole suing phenomena is out of control. People blame others for there stupidity. There's a limit to even my bleeding heart.
    I really don't have any experience with legal stuff, so I just wish you luck, and I hope your shoulder gets better...

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    Vermonter and Seperatist Member Uesugi Kenshin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    My dad is a lawyer and he gave me some interesting info on the cup of coffee case, though it is not definately true because you never know. He said that the reason the lawsuit was reasonable was because McDonald's kept their coffee 30 degrees hotter than any other company (it was company policy). They had had 200 or so complaints over burns and had kept their policy. They even admitted that it was too hot to drink as served.

    If that is correct than it seems fairly reasonable to award damages for that seeing as the victim apparently needed 3 surgeries for burns to her genitalia.
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    warning- plot loss in progress Senior Member barocca's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by Uesugi Kenshin
    ...McDonald's kept their coffee 30 degrees hotter than any other company (it was company policy). They had had 200 or so complaints over burns and had kept their policy. They even admitted that it was too hot to drink as served....
    this is true, (years ago i worked for macca's - maintenance for the machines, now they get the kids to do it)

    even here in oz they got sued a couple of times

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    Member Member bmolsson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    I think the US government should put a roof on what can be paid out via a civil case. That would settle down the circus a bit.....

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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by Uesugi Kenshin
    If that is correct than it seems fairly reasonable to award damages for that seeing as the victim apparently needed 3 surgeries for burns to her genitalia.
    I seem to remember the temperature was actually within the range suggested by some national coffee drinkers association.... but regardless, putting an open container of steaming hot liquid between your thighs while driving and then being suprised when you get burned by it is pretty much the height of stupidity.
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    Member Member Spetulhu's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Here's the cursed coffee case for you, just to get it out of the way:
    http://www.truestellaawards.com/stella.html

    copy-paste for the lazy:
    May it please the court: We know quite well that not all of the cases we present will turn out to be frivolous abuse of the American Justice System. Many of these cases indeed involve real issues, real injuries, and deserve real compensation. And some don't. That's why we stress that you should read the cases before you judge.

    How about, for instance, Stella herself? Much of the coverage about Stella Liebeck has been grossly unfair. When you have a more complete summary of the facts, you might change your mind about her. Or maybe not -- that's up to you. Did you know the following aspects of the Stella vs. McDonald's case?

    * Stella was not driving when she pulled the lid off her scalding McDonald's coffee. Her grandson was driving the car, and he had pulled over to stop so she could add cream and sugar to the cup.
    * Stella was burned badly (some sources say six percent of her skin was burned, other sources say 16 percent was) and needed two years of treatment and rehabilitation, including skin grafts. McDonald's refused an offer to settle with her for $20,000 in medical costs.
    * McDonald's quality control managers specified that its coffee should be served at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit. Liquids at that temperature can cause third-degree burns in 2-7 seconds. Such burns require skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool treatments to heal, and the resulting scarring is typically permanent.
    * From 1982 to 1992, McDonald's coffee burned more than 700 people, usually slightly but sometimes seriously, resulting in some number of other claims and lawsuits.
    * Witnesses for McDonald's admitted in court that consumers are unaware of the extent of the risk of serious burns from spilled coffee served at McDonald's required temperature, admitted that it did not warn customers of this risk, could offer no explanation as to why it did not, and testified that it did not intend to turn down the heat even though it admitted that its coffee is "not fit for consumption" when sold because it is too hot.
    * While Stella was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages, this amount was reduced by 20 percent (to $160,000) because the jury found her 20 percent at fault. Where did the rest of the $2.9 million figure in? She was awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages -- but the judge later reduced that amount to $480,000, or three times the "actual" damages that were awarded.

    But...
    * The resulting $640,000 isn't the end either. Liebeck and McDonald's entered into secret settlement negotiations rather than go to appeal. The amount of the settlement is not known -- it's secret!
    * The plaintiffs were apparently able to document 700 cases of burns from McDonald's coffee over 10 years, or 70 burns per year. But that doesn't take into account how many cups are sold without incident. A McDonald's consultant pointed out the 700 cases in 10 years represents just 1 injury per 24 million cups sold! For every injury, no matter how severe, 23,999,999 people managed to drink their coffee without any injury whatever. Isn't that proof that the coffee is not "unreasonably dangerous"?
    * Even in the eyes of an obviously sympathetic jury, Stella was judged to be 20 percent at fault -- she did, after all, spill the coffee into her lap all by herself. The car was stopped, so she presumably was not bumped to cause the spill. Indeed she chose to hold the coffee cup between her knees instead of any number of safer locations as she opened it. Should she have taken more responsibility for her own actions?

    And...
    * Here's the Kicker: Coffee is supposed to be served in the range of 185 degrees! The National Coffee Association recommends coffee be brewed at "between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction" and drunk "immediately". If not drunk immediately, it should be "maintained at 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit". (Source: NCAUSA.) Exactly what, then, did McDonald's do wrong? Did it exhibit "willful, wanton, reckless or malicious conduct" -- the standard in New Mexico for awarding punitive damages?

    The Court of Public Opinion has also issued its verdict: Stella has become an American icon. Rightly or wrongly, she is a symbol of the American Tort system gone wrong, and most have heard of her case -- and have an opinion on it. For more than 10 years, the term "Stella Award" has been used to refer to any lawsuit that sounds outrageous. Because of this huge name recognition, we chose to continue the name that has captured the public's attention like no other: "Stella Awards". But rather than use fabricated stories to illustrate a real problem, our goal is to legitimize the "Stella Awards" name by reporting real case stories (in the This is True tradition) to get the point across much more powerfully.

    Abuse of the system is going on, and sometimes judges and juries greviously err and set terrible precedents. We'll be reporting the cases by e-mail. So if you haven't signed up for your free subscription to the Stella Awards, you can do that right here:
    If you're fighting fair you've made a miscalculation.

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    The Anger Shaman of the .Org Content Manager Voigtkampf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Pindar-sama is a lawyer, and I am aging/expiring law student.

    No place in world has such huge amounts of compensation sums being paid to damaged persons like in America. There are several reasons for that, and we could go into hour long discussion, but it has a lot to do with judicial system, jury/judge relations and, at the very end, the legal practice that has been established. Americans are likely to continue living in such law system with enormous compensations for even the slightest injuries, if cards are played right, for indeterminable amount of time.

    Also another strong possibility why in US such high money amounts go in courts is that the lawyers support such decisions, because their revenues are mostly fixed in percentage of the amount handled/ruled out, while in most other countries lawyers receive a fixed amount that is established by law, depending on the sort of case they are on.




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    Altogether quite not there! Member GodsPetMonkey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by voigtkampf
    I am aging/expiring law student.
    It's a harsh life

    But if I were to give a reason for why so many of these cases succeed, it's because the definitions of negligence and recklessness is Tort law are so lose and shallow. There are also so many cases that would clearly have failed on causation had they been tried in a criminal context. Maybe that should be looked to as a possible solution.
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    Very Senior Member Gawain of Orkeny's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid lawyer tricks

    Look at all the money Edwards collected on junk medicine
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    Member Senior Member Proletariat's Avatar
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    Default Paging Aurelian. Aurelian to the front gate, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by bmolsson
    What can we say, The Amercian Way ...
    Why are you wasting your time on a message board when there is an obviously successful career as a stand up comic waiting for you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spetulhu
    In many civilized countries lawyers aren't allowed to take cases for a percentage of the possible loot. They have to charge you by the hour, something that helps keep these things in order.
    Brilliant system. Those who can pay get justice, those who can't can go screw.

    Quote Originally Posted by bmolsson
    I think the US government should put a roof on what can be paid out via a civil case. That would settle down the circus a bit.....
    How would this settle down the circus?

  30. #30
    Senior Member Senior Member English assassin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paging Aurelian. Aurelian to the front gate, please.

    One very small change would do a lot to rein in the wilder US court cases, and that would be to have damages assessed by the trial judge (as in the UK) not the jury. In fact that is probably the only change needed. Personally I would look at the rules on punitive and exemplary damages too but that may be more arguable.

    In many civilized countries lawyers aren't allowed to take cases for a percentage of the possible loot. They have to charge you by the hour, something that helps keep these things in order.


    Brilliant system. Those who can pay get justice, those who can't can go screw.
    Its a bit less cut and dried than that, Proletariat. The UK introduced conditional fee arrangments about five years ago, so we have seen the impact on civil litigation. What happens now is people with a pretty bombproof case get taken on on a CFA, with the result that they get the damages they would have got anyway but the lawyers fees are uplifted by 100%. People whose cases are less simple still can't get anyone to act for them unless they pay up themselves.

    So the overall effect has been to increase the amount of money going to lawyers. Even speaking as a lawyer I am not too sure that was brilliant policy. All that was needed was to keep CFAs being illegal, but make it clear that plaintiffs could insure against their legal costs if they lost the case.

    Also under CFAs negotiated settlements and arbitration are strongly disincentivised.
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