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Europe: down the American litigation path?



Last fall the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform published a paper entitled "Expanding Private Causes of Action: Lessons from the U.S. Litigation Experience", co-authored by John Beisner of O'Melveny & Myers, well known to readers of this site, and Charles Borden of the same firm. Here are the first and last paragraphs of the paper's executive summary:

Approximately forty years ago, American policy-makers undertook a variety of efforts to expand opportunities for private individual and group litigation, including the creation of the modern American class action device. In so doing, however, they unwittingly facilitated the onset of widespread litigation abuse. In the intervening decades, the amount of mass litigation in the United States against corporate defendants increased exponentially, as a growing plaintiffs� bar exploited class actions, lax discovery rules, and other procedural mechanisms to leverage frivolous claims into large settlements. It has only been in the past few years that the United States has taken meaningful steps to curb litigation abuses. But as one door begins to close, another threatens to open. Over the past few years, there have been relatively dramatic changes in European law � changes that have made European legal systems far more similar to their American counterpart and that have created the potential for American-style litigation abuses. Indeed, if European policy-makers do not heed the lessons of the American litigation experience, it may only be a matter of time before litigation abuse in Europe is as prevalent as it is in the United States....

The threat of litigation abuse in European legal systems is therefore palpable. Indeed, prominent American plaintiffs� firms are already establishing a presence in Europe with the expectation that Europe will shortly follow down the American path. It therefore vital that European policy-makers exercise caution � and be mindful of the U.S. litigation experience � in making further changes to European legal systems. If they fail to do so, there is a distinct possibility that within a very short time, European nations will descend into the litigation morass from which the United States is just beginning to extricate itself.

For a related paper by Beisner, check out Jim's post of Jul. 22, 2004.

 

 


Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.