The Real Frivolous Lawsuits - Businesses Suing Businesses

The legal "reforms" advocated in Congress only cut off the rights of consumers injured or killed by faulty products. They do nothing to stop the truly ridiculous lawsuits filed each year by businesses against each other.

Businesses Want the Courts to Themselves

Contract and property cases -- most of which involve businesses -- comprise more than one-third of all civil cases in state courts. Domestic relations cases were the next most frequent type of proceeding, representing nearly 25 percent of all civil cases. By comparison, product liability cases accounted for only 0.21 percent of all civil cases. (National Center for State Courts, 1995).

Business cases account for 47 percent of all punitive damage awards. In contrast, only 4.4 percent and 2 percent of punitive damage awards are due to product liability and medical malpractice cases, respectively. (Rand Institute for Civil Justice, 1996).

Businesses suing each other over contracts comprised nearly half of all federal court cases filed between 1985 and 1991. (The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1993.)

The Frivolous Things Businesses Do

Hormel Foods, the maker of the luncheon meat SPAM, sued Jim Henson Productions to stop the creator of the Muppets from calling a character in a new movie "Spa'am." Hormel claimed that the "Spa'am" character represented an unclean, grotesque boar calling into question the purity and quality of its meats. After a full trial, a federal court judge recently rejected Hormel's claims. Hormel appealed, but also lost.

Hormel's case would have been unaffected by the product liability bill. But a Hormel worker injured by a defective meat cutting machine might be left without any rights.

Pepsi-Co's Frito-Lay snacks division sued Proctor & Gamble in November 1995 after Proctor & Gamble claimed that its Pringle's Right Crisp potato chips were "more nutritious" than Frito-Lay's chips.

This lawsuit would be unaffected by the product liability bill. But a Frito-Lay worker killed by a defective forklift or other machine might be left without any rights.

Scott Paper's Canadian division sued Proctor & Gamble in 1995, alleging that Proctor & Gamble had misled consumers about the absorptive power of Bounty paper towels by advertising it as the "quicker-picker-upper."

The product liability bill would not affect Scott Paper's case. But a lumberjack injured by a defective chainsaw while cutting down the tree used to make paper towels might be left without any legal recourse.

Used with permission from The Association of Trial Lawyers of America. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2016 Roland B. Darby