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Yuba City pays Danegeld

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"Yuba City pays man not to file any disability suits." [Sacramento Bee; related earlier on POL]

Interestingly, CBS coverage (via Fed Soc) calls the suits "frivolous." I dislike the term because of the confusion it engenders. George Louie's ADA suits, which impose more social costs than social benefits, are certainly "frivolous" in the colloquial sense. But if a layperson complains about "frivolous lawsuits," they will be told by tort reform opponents that there are already laws for punishing lawyers who bring "frivolous lawsuits." This is technically true, but entirely equivocation: the law defines "frivolous lawsuit" so narrowly that a case like Stella Liebeck's, where she sues for injuries from spilling coffee on herself, is not "frivolous" in the technical legal sense, because she persuaded a judge to ignore the law and allow the suit to proceed.

I prefer the term "meritless lawsuits" (for lawsuits without legal or without factual merit, though plaintiffs may prevail in some of them because of errors in the legal system) or the broader term "socially wasteful lawsuits" (which includes lawsuits where plaintiffs are entitled to prevail because of decisions by courts or legislatures to incur substantial net social cost to society at large).

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

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