In response to the potential pollution hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing in California, Governor Brown was quoted in the LA Times as saying,
“I don’t think any company wants to pollute the aquifer,” he said, “because we have trial lawyers in California — and a very vigorous tort system. So I think there’s a certain self-discipline that they can operate with the management of fracking issues.”
In essesence, petroleum producers worry not so much about harmless state regulators, which have been gutted from recent budget downsizing, but aggressive trial lawyers which may file costly law suits.
This confirms what many trial lawyers have thought all along; their profession plays a vital role in the regulatory ecosystem. Trial lawyers, with their powerful weapon of civil lawsuits, modulate the behavior or risk taking of companies, at least in the oil producing industry according to Governor Brown.
Could it be that the presence of a vast array of trial lawyers, willing to file law suits at the whiff of perceived injury, actually saves the government money, reduces pollution and saves lives? We have all heard of the medical malpractice law suits that resulted in huge settlements for the injured patient. The settlements and correspondingly high medical malpractice insurance rates are often sighted as a leading cause for the high cost of medical treatment in the U.S.
But if the Governor Brown is correct, trial lawyers are saving the system. Perhaps, because of
the threat of law suits, Doctors are more diligent, nurses more thoughtful, hospitals more attentive and lab technicians more watchful. Is it possible that with out the farmers of litigation we would see more injuries and more government involvement in the regulation of healthcare?
Medical malpractice attorneys might be saving the state of California millions of dollars in enforcement, oversight and personel costs to regulate healthcare in California. It would be an interesting economic study if someone could calculate the reduction of injuries caused because of the presence of trial lawyers versus their actual effect on medical malpractice insurance rates and the increase in medical expenses because of the payout of lawsuit awards.
If this study shows a net positive effect, the savings is greater than the costs, that would be a good case for scrapping California’s regulatory bureaucracies and putting all the trial lawyers on retainer. Governor Brown, you are truly an observational genius.