Many journalists talk about frivolous lawsuits. These words were coined by insurance companies, oil companies, big tobacco and other large corporations who have spent millions of dollars promoting the idea that most people are “sue happy” and that lawyers frequently do file frivolous cases. But in fact, any attorney who is paid on a contingency basis (no recovery = no fee) has absolutely no motive to take any case that lacks merit. Take it from Loren Sawyer, a retired Jackson County judge, who wrote an article published in the Mail Tribune in 2009. (To update Judge Sawyer’s article, today 70% of punitive damages now go to the State of Oregon to help fund various government programs.)
In fact lawsuits per capita have been dropping for years, and personal injury cases comprise only a tiny part of the total work on the courts. To get local, in 2017, there were 3,116 civil cases filed in Jackson County. Those civil cases includes 26 categories of cases, including breach of contract, name changes, foreclosures, water rights, eminent domain, election challenges, etc. Personal injury cases comprise one only 1 of the 26 categories.
By contrast, in 2017 there were 28,273 total cases filed in Jackson County! That total includes all civil as well as all criminal cases. That makes all civil claims (not just injury claims) only about 11% of all cases filed in Jackson County. In Klamath County civil cases comprised only 6% of all cases; in Josephine, it was just 7%. Statewide it was only about 7% as well. Check out the data for yourself here (check out the appendices).
When you remember that injury cases are only 1 of the 26 types of cases in that very small civil percentage, you can see that they comprise only a tiny part of the civil justice system, which itself is only a tiny part of the entire court system.
If you want to learn more about personal injury lawsuits and corporations’ attempts to hide wrongdoing and blame the victims, check out Hot Coffee, available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and on DVD.