WHY LAWSUITS ARE GOOD FOR AMERICA: Disciplined Democracy, Big Business, and Common Law

Carl T. Bogus, Author . New York Univ. $34.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8147-1319-8

Is the American jury system out of control, imposing crushing, undeserved verdicts on corporate defendants? This view is powerfully advocated by associations of manufacturers and the right wing, but the author finds it mistaken. Bogus (The Second Amendment in Law and History), associate professor at Roger Williams University School of Law, debunks the horror stories about irrational punitive-damage awards, finding that in nearly all instances the defendant's conduct bordered on the despicable and that, in any event, trial or appellate judges often reduced the verdicts to a small fraction of the stupendous amounts originally awarded. Bogus contends that the judicial system, though imperfect, is not fundamentally broken and serves an important regulatory purpose. He examines the history of the jury system from its origins in England, where juries are rarely impaneled today in civil cases, and the U.S., where the court traditionally defers to the jury's reaction to the evidence. Bogus explores products-liability law back to Justice Benjamin Cardozo's paradigm in the 1911 MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., which states, "We have put aside the notion that the duty to safeguard life and limb... grows out of contract and nothing else," concluding that, by creating incentives for manufacturers to improve product safety and forcing information out into the open, products liability serves a valuable social function. This book, although a work of advocacy, maintains a fair-minded and dispassionate tone and refrains from distracting hyperbole. Bogus's convincing, sustained argument will make a useful contribution to an important national debate. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Show other formats
Paperback - 268 pages - 978-0-8147-9916-1
Hardcover - 279 pages - 978-0-585-47951-4
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