From: Phil Lister <>
To: 'Jones, Michael' <>
Date: 02/11/2009 13:43:36 UTC
Subject: RE: outlandish torts

Why do even law profs seem to find it unseemly that lawyers get paid for the work they do? A trial takes a lot of prep time and investment of your money in witnesses, charts, filings. transcripts etc, - it’s a job. So why shouldn’t  the trial lawyer get paid just as businessmen do for buying and transporting or upgrading something and then re selling it, or profs for preparing and delivering lectures and exams?  Why do even law profs imply this is distasteful or wrong? .................. (PS  :  I think Americans have to pay for their ongoing medical treatment)


From: Jones, Michael []
Sent: Monday, November 02, 2009 5:10 AM
To: 'Jakob Heidbrink';;
Subject: RE: outlandish torts


Non-pecuniary damages in the UK can be significantly higher than $15,000 – in excess of £250,000 in the very worst personal injury cases, though the vast bulk of damages awarded in this type of case would be for pecuniary loss.


I understood that high awards of non-pecuniary damages by juries in the US were “intended” to cover the lawyers’ contingency fees (ranging from 30% to 50% of the total award) and that jury awards are often reduced on appeal.


The other point that I’ve seen made in connection with high levels of litigation in the US is that there is little in the way of social security provision and/or medical care for those with disabilities resulting from accidents, and the tort system is used to fill that gap (and the pockets of lawyers, of course!).  Individualism and self-reliance has its price.  I would be interested to hear from American colleagues about whether there is any empirical data to support either theory.


On the question of outlandish claims (though not a tort) there was a claim for constructive dismissal in the UK by a teacher who said that her squeaking chair in the classroom had forced her to resign her job.  She alleged that the children in the class poked fun at her whenever she sat on this chair (think “whoopee cushion”) and that the school had discriminated against her because they refused to replace or repair the chair (though another colleague had been given a new chair).  You may be relieved to hear that the claim was dismissed by an employment tribunal.  What happened to the chair is not known ...




Michael A. Jones

Professor of Common Law

Liverpool Law School

Chatham Street


L69 7ZS


Phone: 0151 794 2821

Fax:     0151 794 2829




From: Jakob Heidbrink []
Sent: 31 October 2009 17:14
Subject: Sv: outlandish torts


I would agree with M?rten. This case - in particular the size of the award - would appear to most Scandinavians as "typical" American. Apart from the size of the award - anything above $15,000 in non-compensatory damages will tend to raise the odd eyebrow in Sweden -, the other factor is that the fact of the contestant's voluntary participation in what appears to be a pretty daft contest apparently (or, far more correctly, in the media reporting) not being an issue. To many people's mind, the "typical" American award involves a lot of money being paid for non-economic loss, in particular in situations where the loss itself was induced at least by contributory negligence on the part of the issued party, if not entirely on the part of the injured party. This also appears to me to be the defining factor of the hoaxes roaming the Internet and popular mythology.

Thanks to all who helped me with my question, by the way.

Best wishes to you all,

B.A., M.Jur. (Oxon), LL.D.
Assistant Professor in Law
Jönköping International Business School
Box 1026
S-551 11 Jönköping
Tel.: +46 36 10 1871

>>> Chaim Saiman 09-10-30 20:43 >>>


I have been following the emails of the past few days with some interest, and note that most of the examples (real and otherwise) are taken from the American context. Moreover, as one poster suggested, some of these hoaxes may be part of a concerted effort by activists on the American scene to paint a cartoonish picture of the American tort system in order to spur on political efforts at tort reform (limitation)


My question to this largely non-American audience is whether, from an international perspective, these sort s of suits are seen as uniquely (or typically) American, and if so, is it only on account of the jury, or are there other factors at work.


Would be interested in your thoughts.




Chaim Saiman

Associate Professor

Villanova Law School