Litigation in the U.S.

The judicial model of the United States, it would seem, polished to perfection for the more than two centuries, has long been considered one of the world's most objective and impartial. But in the last two decades, and especially in the nineties, have become the crown in the U.S. "consumer society", the model suddenly started to falter — systemic, deep, all the more frightening. And it is clear that the problems have less to do with the internal state of Themis, but with the changed attitude to it by society. Americans discovered that the courts — is not only a mechanism for resolving civil disputes and conflicts, but if you want a very effective tool for recovery of funds. But money has always been one of the greatest human weaknesses.

According to the magazine "Business" in 1996 by U.S. courts has been more than 15 million private civil suits. This is more than 41 000 processes a day, more than 1700 per hour. Given that each claim includes at least one respondent, we can calculate that one out of three is suing the American family. "The judicial sector" has become a significant segment of the economy: in 2000, in the U.S. there were approximately 1.2 million licensed practitioners. This is significantly higher than, for example, farmers.

Because of what the U.S. is so desperately suing? What is the subject of a huge amount of mutual claims in the society that the world is one of the most successful? Paradoxically, comprehensive American freedoms, comprehensively protecting individual freedom, from a certain point began to work as a boomerang. Any legal precedent relating to the protection of certain individual rights, began to give off a chain reaction. After several high-profile cases to protect the sexual rights of American women literally filled the courts for actions in respect of "sexual harassment" bosses, neighbors, husbands, etc. It is clear: whether in fact the notorious harassment or not, but any manager who receives such a claim, does not look in the best light. It is also clear that in an effort to save face and avoid publicity, he will try to settle the case (even if there is no "case" or not) on the pre-trial stage. Thus, although the claims for the most part were not even considered, they are, nevertheless, had for their authors quite tangible financial results. There was a massive female blackmail, professionally serviced legal "guild." For several months, the court "sex hysteria" that has convulsed States, has led to the fact that many bosses now do not risk even talk to a subordinate in the office one by one, all the more closer to her.

A similar chain reaction started in the U.S. and "subject" of sexual abuse of children, the phenomenon is, in principle, quite rare and previously discussed only in specialist circles. It all started with an almost anecdotal case in the supermarket (funny if it were not so sad) man slipped on the tile floor, instinctively grabbed the teenager standing in front. The child's parents sued, the case got a loud response in the press. And the result was … hundreds of criminal cases. The point is simple: for example, his father took a picture of her daughter on the beach in a visually "interesting" moment, and then, if desired, the wife uses this as proof of his "izvraschencheskih" tendencies. The saddest thing is that sometimes even the children of such lawsuits filed against the family, and when the court proved otherwise banal to explain his action modernistic desire to buy cars … Now this practice is widespread in the United States. Few listened to the Nabateans moralists about the fact where the rolling their good old country. On the Internet and in the press can track the action brought in any State in the moment fashion. One of the recent cases that analysts consider a "promising" — a lawsuit against the rock band "Aerosmith" feng her about the "hearing damage during the concert."

"It's Angle", coffee, french fries — who's next?

However, the precipitous rush of individual actions on various subjects was only the beginning of a process that led to the American justice system to the current problem state. Some forward-thinking lawyers watching the chain reaction of similar lawsuits in the courts of different states, pragmatically noticed, it's all about creating a certain precedent, subsequently causing a snowball effect. Their main finding was that accumulate certain "critical mass" of the same type of private lawsuits against a particular corporation is far more profitable than serving the interests of the individual plaintiffs in separate processes. The point here is not in the expected decision of the court, namely, the "critical mass" that allows for a pre-trial blackmail. The presence of, say, 100,000 private claims to a particular company about its products — it is not like a particular case, it is an occasion for scandal, and scandal — the lever of the formation of public opinion and a certain pressure on the company, respectively.

Gap of U.S. law, not to be found in the laws of many other countries of the West, is the admissibility of the so-called "class actions" imposed on behalf of the many thousands of people. Such a claim is, in principle, can be presented to the manufacturer of any product, if under any circumstances, harmful, and even more so — known manufacturer of harmful goods, such as vodka or tobacco. Manufacturers of cigarettes, soft drinks and food industry workers became the first target is clearly vexatious "class" and private lawsuits against companies that have brought billions of dollars in legal associations. In 1997 began the famous advocates of the lawsuit filed Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt the tobacco companies. Rosenblatt first in the history of the U.S. Justice decided to file a class action on behalf of smokers. The total amount of the claim, known as the "Engle case" after one of the plaintiffs, was $ 12.7 million, which were presented as compensation "for the pain and suffering" on behalf of three lung cancer patients Americans. The court granted the plaintiffs in the amount of $ 6.9 million does not matter that the claim is still under appeal, it is important that it was the beginning of a chain reaction. Already in 1998 was achieved by an unprecedented amount of a settlement agreement between the tobacco companies and 50 states, who demanded reimbursement of the costs of treatment of hundreds of thousands of smokers. Tabachnik (notice of court) made a commitment to pay the states $ 246 billion in the end, of course, the money to pay himself a smoker — the company has already announced plans to increase the selling price of a pack of cigarettes by an average of 10 cents. July 14, 2000 took a decision in another class suit on behalf of 500,000 Florida smokers that tobacco manufacturers to the U.S. ordered to pay another $ 145 billion This amount also got into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest in world history, the fine imposed by the court. However, the process has become a continuation of "business Angle" is not yet complete.

Several smaller fines, but similar litigation trends observed in other sectors of industry in the United States, and the geography of claims is not limited to this country. Recently, the U.S. court was introduced to the group lawsuit the world's largest fast food chain "McDonald's" 25 people in the UK claim that burned too hot coffee and tea. Precedent: A few years ago, the company has paid compensation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a woman who scalded coffee. As if the irony of fate, during consideration of the "coffee-tea" business "McDonalds" was brought another lawsuit for millions of dollars, this time the "potato." Now, fast-food chain is accused of using animal fat in the preparation of French fries. As noted in the suit of the American Indian-origin lawyer Harish Bharti, wine, "McDonald's" was that the company did not inform its customers about the use of animal fat, resulting in "millions of Indians living in the United States, and 15 million vegetarians were forced to eat animal products origin, even without knowing it. " Now, obviously, you need to wait for complaints about the mayonnaise, tomato and onion.

In a similar network of professionals in the corporate chicanery pleased "Coca-Cola", which these days barely settled (by the way, besides a large sum in the pretrial order) scandal involving alleged harassment of black employees. A major lawsuit from a man suffering from cancer of the brain, received several telecommunications companies — they are charged with "concealment of fact" that a cell phone allegedly causing the disease (the official medicine of this "fact" is not the voice). Even without straining your imagination, it's easy to imagine a near future development trends. On turn all American food (sweets leads to diabetes, smoked cause liver disease, about alcohol in general can not speak), television (viewing militants harmful to the psyche), manufacturers of skateboards and other sporting equipment (a boy broke his leg) …

Chain reaction in the form of an epidemic judicial "theater of the absurd," says first of all a direct interest in the ongoing legal associations. The fact that the commission reach 25-40% of the amount of the fine or the payment of the "world." In cases under "class actions" is the astronomical figures. Incidentally, law firms, who initiated lawsuits against tobacco companies are suing the U.S. government over the states of their fees, as lawmakers considered 25% of such astronomical sums like $ 246 billion or $ 145 billion, an unfair share. One of the states passed legislation that the services of any lawyer can not cost more than $ 500 per hour, with the motivation that what is happening now "fundamentally contradicts the very essence of the legal profession — of intellectual business, it turns into something else."

You can talk seriously about the political make up of what is happening in the United States Court of insanity. Thus, the subject of publications has become a fact of funding legal associations, known for "the cause of Angle," and other similar actions, campaigns of some senators. It is clear that the "law" segment of the U.S. economy, a heated court boom rotate a lot of money. On this occasion agency "Charleston Mail" and the magazine "Business" report data of the U.S. National Federation of Independent Business. Through system analysis and interviews, it was found that U.S. producers to insure against legal costs are added to the sale price of the goods from 20 to 50%. Accordingly, each American annually overcharged about $ 1200, and each American household — $ 5,000 "legal targets." This money pays lawyers everyman indirectly in the form of rewards. "… A kind of ekstranalog, who would not want to pay, and no American who does not want to import any other country," — wrote about this magazine "Business".

America swept the atmosphere, "the court enrichment" is largely due to the fact that lawyers and their clients play in the "win the lottery" — the law lawyer, the process of losing or exposing obviously incorrect requirements, virtually no risk. The problem also lies in the fact that the American justice for all its objective and impartial image is still largely based on emotions (emotions of the jury.) Quite different is the case, for example, in Europe, where the initiator of the "class action" at once would have lost his law license. For the European case-law filing "class action" and the award of billions of dollars of compensation for it is impossible in principle, as the initiator of the process — the lawyer would have to prove specific harm caused by each individual person, and the fact that its authorization to defend the interests of each of the "500,000 smokers." By the way, it is revealing that it is in this circumstance (formally impose claims hundreds of thousands of citizens, but the circumstances of each case is different) in recent months have been-and still stalled U.S. courts.

Alexei Ikonnikov 2001

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