Curb lawsuit abuse: Take a seat on jury

October 20, 2006|By Todd D. Lamb

It seems that every time we open a phone book or drive past a highway billboard or turn on the television, we are bombarded with personal-injury lawyer advertisements encouraging people to sue for anything that might go wrong.

Slip and fall on some wet leaves? Sue. Ate too many Big Macs? Sue. Don't think your son got enough playing time on the football team? Sue. Instead of accepting responsibility for their actions, people too often look to those faces in the Yellow Pages to help them find others to blame and file a lawsuit in hopes of striking it rich. Common sense and personal responsibility have been replaced by frivolous lawsuits and a culture of blame.

According to a 2005 national study sponsored by an affiliate of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, 80 percent of Americans believe advertising by personal-injury lawyers encourages people to sue even if they have not been injured. This is a judicial system that's broken.

Citizens have an important role to play in fighting frivolous lawsuits and encouraging personal responsibility. One of the most important ways we, as citizens, can curb lawsuit abuse and ensure justice for the truly injured is by serving on a jury when summoned.

By interpreting facts and returning an impartial verdict, jurors help make sure our courts are used for justice, not greed. All that stands between some personal-injury lawyers and excessive awards is the wise judgment of a "jury of our peers."

Yet despite the importance of jury service, too few citizens are responding to the call of duty. In Baltimore, according to an analysis this year by the Maryland General Assembly research staff, only 37 percent of those called for jury service bother to appear.

In reality, that number is diminished substantially by those who do respond to a jury service summons only to find clever ways of getting out of service. We have all heard our co-workers regale us with stories of their ability to get out of jury duty. But the U.S. and Maryland constitutions guarantee all people the right to trial by an impartial jury. Justice often depends upon the jurors who serve in our courts, and when people avoid jury duty, the quality of justice is diminished.

Jurors play a vital role in the judicial system. It's important for all of us to do our part in helping to fight lawsuit abuse and encouraging personal responsibility. It's time Marylanders stand up for justice - and take a seat on a jury.

Todd D. Lamb is the executive director of Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. His e-mail is

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