PolySciFi Blog

Saturday, August 20, 2005


A normative argument on tort reforms

I imagine you've read about the ginormous Vioxx ruling. While I think that judgement is grossly out of line, that's not the purpose of this post. Rather I'm responding to an argument against caps on punitive awards in lawsuits that MarcC typifies in the comments at Ballon Juice.
"The problem with most tort reform I’ve seen discussed is that it limits dollar awards severely. Consider a $1M limit. To a company like Merck, GM, Microsoft, etc. – that is such a small amount that losing a case causes no harm. If lawsuits are no longer a threat, companies will act to maximize profits at the public’s expense with impunity.
Not good!
Leaving the assertion that companies that maximize profits will act at the public's expense for another day, the central assertion of this argument is that the larger a company is, the larger the fine should be.

I know Finland does something similar, but I thought a central tenet of the US legal system was equal treatment before the law. Just as the rich shouldn't be afforded special privileges before the law, neither should the rich be treated more harshly simply for being richer. To argue aphoristically, the punishment should fit the crime, not the person (or corporation).

Of course, it is possible to set up a legal system where all people are equal but with some more equal than others, but I don't think that's the one we want.

To me, this post on Andrew Sullivan seems related.


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