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In praise of litigation

Author: Alexandra D Lahav
Publisher: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2017] ©2017
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
It is not difficult to find critics of America's famously litigious society. We have more lawyers per capita than anywhere else. Critics say we are unmatched in our willingness to sue, pointing to anecdotes of frivolous suits such as a man who sued his drycleaner over a pair of pants or parents who sued a school when their son broke his leg going down a slide head first. The critics contend that the primary
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Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Alexandra D Lahav
ISBN: 9780199380800 0199380805
OCLC Number: 956435296
Description: xiv, 214 pages ; 25 cm
Contents: Introduction : A force for democracy --
Enforcing the law --
The power of information --
Participation in self-government --
Equality before the law --
Epilogue.
Responsibility: Alexandra Lahav.

Abstract:

It is not difficult to find critics of America's famously litigious society. We have more lawyers per capita than anywhere else. Critics say we are unmatched in our willingness to sue, pointing to anecdotes of frivolous suits such as a man who sued his drycleaner over a pair of pants or parents who sued a school when their son broke his leg going down a slide head first. The critics contend that the primary beneficiaries of litigation are attorneys themselves, and that the main effect of excessive litigiousness is reduced business innovation. The tort reform movement that they champion-dedicated to limiting the reach of lawsuits and in some cases eliminating certain types of suits altogether-has become a powerful force in America politics and law. The tort reform movement has had some real successes in limiting what can reach the courts, but there have been victims too. As Alexandra Lahav shows, it has become increasingly difficult for ordinary people to enforce their rights. In the grand scale of lawsuits, actually crazy or bogus lawsuits constitute a tiny minority ; in fact, most anecdotes turn out to be misrepresentations of what actually happened. In In Praise of Litigation, Lahav argues that critics are blinded to the many benefits of lawsuits. The majority of lawsuits promote equality before the law, transparency, and accountability. Our ability to go to court is a sign of our strength as a society and enables us to both participate in and reinforce the rule of law. In addition, joining lawsuits gives citizens direct access to governmental officials-judges-who can hear their arguments about issues central to our democracy, including the proper extent of police power and the ability of all people to vote. It is at least arguable that lawsuits have helped spur major social changes in arenas like race relations and marriage rights, as well as made products safer and forced wrongdoers to answer for their conduct. In this defense, Lahav does not ignore the obvious drawbacks to litigiousness. It is expensive, stressful, and time consuming. Certainly, sensible reforms could make the system better. However, many of the proposals that have been adopted and are currently on the table seek only to solve problems that do not exist or to make it harder for citizens to defend their rights and to enforce the law. This is not the answer. In Praise of Litigation offers a level-headed and law-based assessment of the state of litigation in America as well as a number of practical steps that can be taken to ensure citizens have the right to defend themselves against wrongs while not odiously infringing on the rights of others. "--

Does litigation provide any social benefits at all? Certainly, it is expensive, stressful and time consuming, but Alexandra Lahav contends that the critics have blinded us to its many benefits. In Praise of Litigation explains what society gains from litigation and why it is ultimately a social good. Our ability to go to court is a sign of our strength as a society and enables us to both participate in and reinforce the rule of law. Joining lawsuits also gives citizens direct access to governmental officials - judges - who can hear their arguments about issues central to our democracy, such as the extent of police power and the ability of all people to vote. Litigation also promotes equality before the law, transparency, and accountability. And it is at least arguable that lawsuits have helped spur major social changes in arenas like race relations and marriage rights, as well as made products safer and forced wrongdoers to answer for their conduct. In her defense of the system, Lahav does not ignore the many costs that litigation imposes, and proposes a number of sensible reforms that improve the value of litigation. Many of the proposals that have been adopted and are currently on the table are spurious because they solve problems that do not exist or just make it harder for citizens to defend their rights and to enforce the law --

"[This book] provides a much needed corrective to this flawed perspective [that the United States is hopelessly litigious], reminding us of the irreplaceable role of litigation in a well-functioning democracy and debunking many of the myths that cloud our understanding of this role. For example, the vast majority of lawsuits in the United States are based on contract claims, the median value of lawsuits is on a downward trend, and, on a per capita basis, many fewer lawsuits are filed today than were filed in the 19th century. Exploring cases involving freedom of speech, foodborne illness, defective cars, business competition, and more, the book shows that despite its inevitable limitations, litigation empowers citizens to challenge the most powerful public and private interests and hold them accountable for their actions. Lawsuits change behavior, provide information to consumers and citizens, promote deliberation, and express society's views on equality and its most treasured values. [This book] shows how our court system protects our liberties and enables civil society to flourish, and serves as a powerful reminder of why we need to protect people's ability to use it." -- Publisher's website/book jacket.

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