Not Long Ago, in a Place Far, Far Away, They Successfully Replaced Tort Law

Article excerpt

I've followed closely the letters-to-the-editor debate on our tort system (Letters, Dec. 21, 13 and 4) that began with a Nov. 21 column by Richard Grenier.

Mr. Grenier's column refers, in a somwhat distorted manner, to several secondary and peripheral points I've raised in a recent article in the World & I magazine ("Contorting America") on the history and economic productivity costs of America's tort system.

Whatever the merits of Mr. Grenier's original column, the most noteworthy aspect of the ensuing letters debate, like the legal-reform debate at large, is that tort law opponents haven't debunked the argument by Pamela A. Liapakis, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, that the American tort system prevents dangerous and negligent behavior (Letters, Dec. 4). While writing my article, I found, in a University of Toronto Law Journal article (44 1994, 244), the ammunition for such debunking. Former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer writes extensively and clearly on the 20-year accident-compensation experience of his country since it dispensed with its tort system. He also addresses, among other things, the lack of validity of the so-called "law and economics" theory (the pervasive American economic theory which supports the tort-law-as-deterrent argument).

Sir Geoffrey, who has taught law in the United States, says a lot, and it's doubtful that Ms. Liapakis would like any of it. He accomplishes in one article what most of the American legal reform movement has yet to undertake seriously. He summarily debunks, in the clearest language possible, the two main arguments the tort lawyers' lobby use to to oppose refomr of our costly, inefficient and unworkable tort system. …