CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

NYC's Top Lawyer: "Anti-Government" Tort Laws Costing Too Much

By Todd Roberson on 09/27/2011 @ 11:48 PM

Tags: Legal Reform, Legal Climate

Last Thursday New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, the top lawyer for the city, highlighted the impact that lawsuit abuse has on local government and called for New York tort laws to be changed "to even the playing field." New York City paid out $561 million in tort and related cases in the 2011 fiscal year.

One of the problems is New York's law on joint and several liability. Even if the city is only 1% at fault in an accident, often times it must pay for all of the plaintiff's damages, including pain and suffering.

New York should follow California's lead on joint and several liability. In 1986, California voters approved Proposition 51, which was sponsored by CJAC and eliminated joint and several liability for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. These damages are now paid based on a proportional basis by those at fault. Actual damages must still be paid in full regardless of how much a defendant was at fault so that the injured person is fully compensated.

Local governments are a popular target in joint and several liability cases because plaintiff's attorneys see a deep pocket they can take advantage of if they can establish that a local government entity is even 1% at fault. That means taxpayer money going to plaintiff's attorneys rather than vital public services, something most local governments cannot afford right now.

Read more on Cardozo's comments here.

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