Here’s a novel idea for the Bush Administration: the next time a Virginia jury considers the proper amount to award a Virginia citizen severely injured by the carelessness of another, the jury should consider … the facts of the specific case … rather than the Bush Administration’s talking points for the insurance industry that are meant to prejudice a jury and keep it from its solemn duty to … yes, consider the facts of the specific case before the jury.

The Bush administration recently has added to its growing stockpile another claim based on false data. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulsen Jr. stated that “the broken tort system is an Achilles heel for our economy.” Paulsen based his opinion on a “study” by an insurance industry consulting firm.

It seems that the study includes the cost of the insurance industry itself – multimillion dollar salaries for insurance CEOs, rent on office buildings, and administration overhead – in the “cost” of the legal system. Business Week called the study “a wild exaggeration,” and The Wall Street Journal stated that the study “includes payments that don’t involve the legal system at all.” The Journal concluded that payments from a careless driver to somebody who has been legitimately wronged is not evidence of a “system run amok,”

Even the organization conducting the study admitted that “the costs tabulated in this study are not a reflection of litigated claims or of the legal system,” and the primary author of the study has said that tort-reform advocates’ use of the data has been “misleading.”

In May of 2005 the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Washington D.C. found that this report:

was one-sided, exaggerating the impact of the tort system and ignoring its benefits, and that evidence supporting them is shaky or nonexistent. Claims that the tort system harms the U.S. economy do not square with the data. In fact, there is a good deal of evidence to the contrary.

To be sure, there are frivolous claims, and frivolous defenses, in lawsuits of all varieties. But the Bush Administration has suggested that our tort system is fraught with frivolous claims. Perhaps the Administration should hold-up a mirror before accusing others of making repeated claims based upon false information.

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