April 29, 2008

Time to Re-Tort

Monique Chartier

A caller to WPRO's Matt Allen Show today came up with the idea of charging a fee for every bill that a Rhode Island legislator wishes to file. Matt suggested $500 a pop, to be deducted from the legislator's annual salary.

In view of the many look-at-me, pointlessly distracting bills that are filed every session, that strikes me as a fine idea and one that I would not modify so much as amplify. In addition to the above stick, a carrot: for each bill filed by a legislator which either removes an existing bad law from the books or would move Rhode Island in the right direction on one of the many bad lists that we are on, a bounty of $250.

It appears that such a bounty could be put to good use in the area of tort reform. Rhode Island ranks last in the area of tort liability. [Page 54 of this link.]

But isn't this good? Doesn't this mean that justice is being done? Well, yes and no. Disproportionate awards are not usually bravely shouldered alone by the losing defendant. They are passed on to the consumer in several ways. So they cost us all money in the form of higher prices or higher insurance premiums. Excessive tort liability is also a contributing factor to our state's stinky business climate. [You know, the climate that has bestowed a recession on us - as Justin points out, the only state so far in the Northeast to get one.]

Once again, averageness - that is my fairly modest aspiration for the state of Rhode Island. In the area of tort liability, neither crusaders nor corporate hatchetmen. Just to be in the middle of the pack on this and the other unfortunate lists that we are on.

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I was watching the house debates and votes tonight on channel 15.I was amazed at how utterly stupid Grace Diaz is.It is not that she has an accent-she is just an incoherent speaker and she can't seem to comprehend answers to her questions.Anastasia Williams was another beauty tonight.she made a tasteless remark about what the word "wop" meant and went on to say that members of her family had to get married to legalize their status in the US.That is called a sham marriage and is a felony,but I am quite sure she won't be asked about it.
Brien's E-Verify bill passed by a wide margin.Now let's see if Paiva-Weed can stop being Steven Brown's lapdog long enough to allow an up or down vote in the Senate.I doubt it.She is an impediment to representative democracy.
The 24/3 bill passed easily.Gorham's attempt at an ethicd clause was shot down.Wow,what a surprise.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 29, 2008 10:36 PM

Hey, Joe, did you catch any of the debate on another critical matter: the elimination/rounding of the "nine/tenths" portion of gas prices?

What's the emoticon for eye-rolling?

Posted by: Monique at April 29, 2008 11:19 PM

The extremely high number of lawyers serving as legislators in the RI General Assembly may be one clue as to why tort reform could be difficult.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at April 30, 2008 12:50 AM

Strict liability also means that if anyone if found even a fraction of a percent at fault in a tort, they are liable for the whole damage amount. It's an unfortunate human impulse to think "Well, he must have been a little at fault....." I don't think juries even get to hear about this.

Posted by: chuckR at April 30, 2008 7:35 AM

Who makes the judgment calls on whether it is a bad law removed from the books?
Does this stop wealthy legislators (or those who represent corporate rather than union interests) from submitting silly bills?
'Nuff said.

Posted by: rhody at April 30, 2008 11:08 AM

This is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have ever heard. It's not surprising that it originated with a caller to a talk radio flamethrower.

Your anti-government animus is getting out of control. Being conservative doesn't mean that you hate government.

Posted by: Pragmatist at April 30, 2008 11:56 AM

Actually, Pragmatist, I hate any government that does anything outside of what is clearly specified in the Constitution.

Posted by: Greg at April 30, 2008 12:45 PM
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