By Zachary Thornley
If you are not in the legal field, then it can be easy to miss. Lawsuit limitations, often lobbied for by large corporations, are being enacted into law. It is not unreasonable to understand why they want to limit liability. No one wants to be sued. But if you create a product or service and it causes damage to another person, then the equitable solution is to put the injured party as much back to whole as possible. Oftentimes physical injuries can’t be magically fixed “back to whole.” Therefore, the most reasonable solution is to compensate the person monetarily.
Most people would be surprised to learn that the United States Chamber of Commerce has no affiliation with our government. Chambers of commerce are institutions that are set up to help businesses succeed. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Litigation Center states, “Founded in 1977, the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center fights for business at every level of the U.S. judicial system, on virtually every issue affecting business, including class actions and arbitration, labor and employment, energy, environment, securities and corporate governance, financial regulation, free speech, preemption, government contracts, and criminal law.” This sounds great if you are a business.
With their influence and power, they have been able to place statutory limits on the amount of damages businesses have to pay out when the business hurts or injures someone. To be fair, if suing for every little papercut were simple and easy and with no barriers, then businesses, especially small businesses, may go out of business. Businesses going under means less jobs…and on and on the dominoes fall. So, there must be some structure. There must be some rules to live by. I’m not rallying against businesses having tools to help them succeed.
However, in our recent past, there have been lawsuits and laws enacted that have helped business at the expense of ordinary citizens. For instance, many states have enacted laws that place limits on damages caused by doctors. Malpractice caps can be devastating to a family who has been harmed by a physician’s malpractice. Additionally, laws can be enacted that may severely shorten the time in which for you to discover you or a family member has been harmed. In Arizona, you are limited to filing your claim to two years from the time the action accrued. A.R.S. § 12-542. If you miss the window, you may be precluded from ever being compensated.
While not exclusive, tort reform is often working for corporate interests and against the general public’s interest. Tort reform is often labeled something nice when going through the legislative process or when the initiative is placed on the ballot. Be mindful of what you vote for. Read deeper into proposed legislation and call your representatives when you feel a new law is not in your interests.
Zachary J. Thornley is a trial attorney licensed in the state of Arizona. To learn more, visit thornleylawfirm.com. The information contained herein does not constitute legal advice and in no way creates an attorney-client relationship. Contact an experienced attorney in your area for advice on your specific situation.