We have learned that “tort reform” isn’t actually about reforming anything. Just like poop that is called meatloaf is still poop. Just like weasels wearing Armani suits are still weasels.
So where did this thing called “tort reform” come from. And…what exactly is it?
Back in the 1950’s, the insurance industry figured out that they were the ones who were ultimately held responsible for compensating victims of personal injury. A reckless driver crashes at a high rate of speed into a nice family, killing them all. The Reckless Driver has committed a tort. A tort is defined as a wrongful act (or failure to act) which injures another and for which the law permits a civil (non-criminal) action to be brought in court.
Reckless Driver may go to jail for any crimes he has committed. But he will not go to jail for his torts. The penalties for torts are civil damages. The basic idea is to compensate the victims for their injuries and losses. Obviously, the law can’t go back in time and take away the injuries. Thus, the only reasonable remedy is money damages. And that is why we have liability insurance. The insurance company of Reckless Driver will have to pay these damages.
Insurance Companies love it when we write them a check for our premiums. Insurance Companies hate it when they have to pay that money back in claims. Paying claims means less money for the CEO’s. Fewer mansions for the CEO’s. Fewer yachts for the CEO’s. They wanted to figure out a way not to pay fair compensation to injured people. And presto! We have the birth of “tort reform.”
So how did “tort reform” progress from a foul, rancid, greedy idea to a political agenda. That will be coming up in our next installment.