I won’t drone on here, as I strongly encourage you to see and decide for yourself, so will make three quick comments:
1) We as citizens need to pay close attention to WHO is asking us to take a position on issues that impact us. I remember seeing a yard sign that read “Support Fair Education for Kids.” ”Well, heck,” I thought, “Who would oppose that?” The answer: no one. And that’s WHY whoever is behind that campaign named it that. But, in that example, what does “fair education” really mean? And who is telling me that I should support it? And should I go vote on that issue based on that sign? NO! We all have a duty to educate ourselves and not be fooled by campaigns with that claim to be by “grassroots citizens” when they are actually bankrolled by “astroturf special interests” – nor by the commercials that so convincingly portray people just like us who supposedly think just like us. Friends, don’t be fooled. Next time you see an ad from the “Citizens for a Better World Full of Fluffy Ducklings and Fuzzy Bunnies” – ask questions. When you vote on Proposition XYZ, what are you actually voting for?
2) “Frivolous Lawsuits” – in short, this concept is bogus. If you are allergic to civil procedure, skip to #3. For those of you still reading, here’s the deal: there’s this little legal device called a “motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim” that prevents “frivolous lawsuits” from wrecking havoc in our courts. This type of motion is designed to be a little hurdle to make sure that a plaintiff actually has a claim. (And the defendant doesn’t even have to take the time to write a brief – a court can dismiss all by itself if a case is really that silly.) A case only survives a motion to dismiss – or gets over the hurdle and on to the expensive and more time-consuming parts of a lawsuit (discovery, etc.) – *IF* the person bringing the case has made a valid claim and there’s enough information in the complaint to make the case worthwhile. For example, when I worked for a judge, I saw a few cases that were filed against Satan (no kidding). Now, putting the question of how you’d deliver your complaint to ol’ Beelzebub aside (I bet a process server would charge extra for that), there’s the fact that these cases did not state an actionable claim – in non-legalese, they don’t complain about a problem that the law can solve. Complaining that Satan caused a drought for 60 days in my hometown? That’s frivolous – no court can offer any solution. Suing my employer just because she doesn’t like what I eat for lunch? Again, frivolous – she’s not breaking any law. These lawsuits will not make it past the motion to dismiss stage and, while I do recognize there are very real funding and staffing problems in many courts today, if all goes well, such cases don’t take much of the court’s time and, if a filing fee was paid, that’s more $ toward the system. But what you don’t hear much about is how what is designed to be a small hurdle has gradually become more of a wall for plaintiffs trying to get into court. If pleading requirements and/or the names Twombly and Iqbal interest you, read more hereand here.
3) My last point is to note that in the 90 minutes the film had to cover several significant topics, the issue of non-economic damages did not get much time. My goal in starting this website and film projects is to inform, not to tell you how or what to think. So I’ll simply note that there is a distinction between economic damages (the salary you lose if you can’t work because you are injured and the cost of medical treatment for your recovery) and non-economic damages (think “pain and suffering”). As talk of capping this or that continues, just remember that there is a distinction.
Now, go pop some healthy popcorn and enjoy!
(And for those of you who watch and want to know what happened to Ms. Jones after her June 2011 trial, the Wall Street Journal and Slate were among those to report on it. A good reminder of the power of having claims heard in open court.)