Lawsuits Galore

Remember the story of a woman who won a million bucks by suing McDonald’s (search) because she scolded herself with their coffee? Well now comes the story of the Pennsylvania couple suing Wal-Mart because of a grocery bag that ripped open on the way home.

Seems the couple’s bag was either too full or too weak and the contents spilled out on the woman’s ankle. They’re not aiming as high as the McDonald’s suit, but are demanding $30,000.

But all these lawsuits, even the cheaper ones -- add up. Over the past 30 years, the costs of lawsuits grew by 9% a year. And in 2001, the last year for which complete data is available, the costs of lawsuits in the U.S. grew by 14%. In cash, this adds up to $200 billion. How much do the lawyers get? About $40 billion.

These numbers would be even higher if we included the billions paid out in tobacco settlements, which are in a class by themselves. A new book published by the Manhattan Institute called, “Trial Lawyers, Inc” points out: “If tort costs increase at their 2001 pace, the ten-year cost of [lawsuits] will be over $4.8 trillion—almost triple the size of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts combined.”

And that’s the Asman Observer!