We’ve all read and laughed at the stories of ludicrous lawsuits and the runaway juries who decide on multi-million judgments.
Unfortunately, fellow New Yorkers, the joke is on us.
A recent independent economic study conducted for New Yorkers for Lawsuit Reform — a statewide coalition of large and small businesses, medical professionals, municipal governments and other hardworking New Yorkers — has finally determined the actual cost of New York’s legal system to all of us. And, that cost is enormous.
The study, conducted by the prestigious Pacific Research Institute, found that New York’s legal system ranks 48th in our country for its expense and bias towards trial lawyers. What that means to us is:
Businesses — and jobs — are leaving New York state in droves. A recent study found that a state’s “tort climate” is the second most important factor for businesses when looking to locate. Ranking third worst in the nation is bad news.
Health care costs are dramatically impacted, making our current health care crisis even more difficult and expensive. Doctors, always on guard against the next lawsuit, are forced to order additional tests and procedures in anticipation of being cross-examined by a trial lawyer. Simply eliminating those unneeded procedures could save New Yorkers $14 billion a year!
Municipalities, facing a tidal wave of lawsuits and higher insurance costs, are being forced to raise taxes to cover their costs and potential losses. Who pays? You do. Every day.
New York’s budget crisis could be solved if we adopt some commonsense lawsuit reforms. Simple ideas such as putting monetary limits on the amount which lawyers can seek for “pain and suffering” and removing New York’s absolute liability law for construction sites would go a long way toward helping us solve this crisis.
These costs are impacting us right here in upstate New York. A Rochester nursing home operator told me that his costs have risen so much that he is worried about his ability to maintain staff levels.
A Rochester area radiologist admitted to me that the potential for a lawsuit is always on the minds of health care professionals and definitely impacts the tests and procedures that he conducts.
We must now look at the crisis in this state and make real changes. We cannot continue to ignore the need for lawsuit reform.
More information can be found at www.NYLawsuitReform.org.
Kriss is executive director of Albany-based New Yorkers for Lawsuit Reform.