Has frivolous litigation in America reached crisis levels? Teachers in Michigan's public schools are prohibited by law from patting students on the back, lest someone shout “sexual harassment,” A children's baseball game is canceled when the umpire fails to show up, because parents who would fill in are afraid they might be sued if someone gets hurt. A woman fails and smashes her teeth while sneaking into a nightclub through the rest room window to avoid the $3 cover charge. She then sues the club and is awarded $12.000 and dental expenses.
Underlying these and countless other perversities is a fundamental legal shift-the triumph of individual rights over authority. By glorifying the legal right of any angry individual to haul just about any person or organization, including the government, into court for just about any reason. Americans have ironically become less free. Many people now spend their lives living under the shadow of legal action instead of rejoicing in the freedoms that the law was supposed to guarantee.
At the root of the problem is the unwillingness of modern judges to do what their predecessors considered essential―make the value judgments necessary to dismiss weak lawsuits. The result is that the value judgments are now made by juries, which were previously limited to resolving factual disputes and which reach dramatically difficult conclusions from one case to the next.
Consequently, nobody can be confident where the law stands. In the end, lawsuits that common sense dictates have no rational reason for appearing in court can force blameless defendants to pay major settlements.