The Public Policy Institute

An Accident And A Dream

How The Lawsuit Lottery Is Distorting Justice, And Costing New Yorkers Billions of Dollars Every Year

New Yorkers are paying more and more every year to support the lawsuit industry — a total that now hits $14.3 billion, or almost $800 for every person in the state. The cost is growing rapidly. And the number of lawyers has grown by 40 percent in 10 years. It's time to rekindle interest in liability reform. (Introduction)

Over the last 40 years, the laws and court practices governing liability lawsuits have moved farther and farther away from the concept of fault. Instead, damages are awarded on the basis of the assumed “deep pockets” of defendants. The result is a legal hodge-podge that drives up costs, stifles innovation and growth, and burdens the taxpayers. (Section 1)

The cost of this runaway lawsuit industry is particularly high in New York--well over $14 billion. Incredibly, less than half of that money ever goes to injured parties. Trial lawyers get some $2.3 billion of it. (Section 2)

Defenders of the litigation explosion insist there is no problem. But lawsuits in New York are increasing rapidly; cost well above national norms; are becoming steadily more expensive; and are clogging the courts. (Section 3)

Trial lawyers are increasingly aggressive in advertising for business and in trying to induce people to sue. Perhaps they have to be; the number of lawyers in the state has grown by 30,000 in the last 10 years, while New York's population has barely grown at all. (Section 4)

The reform agenda includes limiting lawsuits and awards for non-economic damages, rethinking lawyer compensation, and relying more on contract law. The focus should be on justice — not on money. (Section 5)

The Public Policy Institute of New York State, Inc.
111 Washington Avenue, Suite 400 |  Albany, New York 12210-2289  |  518-465-7511