Everyone remembers the hot-coffee case that got McDonald's socked with $2.7 million in punitive damages (later reduced in a secret settlement). But did you hear the one about the citizen who was charged with assault for bringing down a runaway mugger? Or the judge in D.C. who sued his dry cleaner for $54 million for losing his pants? Or the Teach for America teacher who held the arm of a rebellious teenager and faced a lawsuit seeking $20 million?
Did you hear the one about the citizen who was charged with assault for bringing down a runaway mugger?
Philip K. Howard has heard about all these cases. In fact, it is Philip K. Howard who brings most of the “how absurd!” stories to the public's attention and he wants to hear more if you have one. He’s a lawyer himself, on a crusade to stop the law, and lawyers, from engaging in outlandish litigation. He first hit a nerve in 1996 with his trenchant bestseller The Death of Common Sense. Now, he's renewed his assault with Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans From Too Much Law.
Book Beast takes up the issue with a multi-part special. First, an excerpt from Howard’s book. Second, a review by two eminent lawyers: Eric Posner, professor of law at the University of Chicago and Robert Silver, a former faculty fellow at Yale Law School, a senior partner at the powerhouse firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner. Finally, a closing argument by Howard about how to foster real leadership.
Is Howard right? Or does his campaign threaten to deprive individuals of protection against abuse by other individuals or powerful corporations, like the now-bankrupt Peanut Corp.? And if there is an epidemic of vexatious lawsuits, how precisely do you produce a remedy that doesn’t go too far in the other direction? Join the debate in the comments section below.