When Tort Reformers Slip And Fall


So-called “tort reform” is one of the Republican Party’s favorite issues, and this administration in particular has done a lot to limit the power of employees and victims of government, industrial and consumer discrimination and negligence to bring lawsuits against employers and corporations.

Like so many things, however, the concept of tort reform is easier to talk about than to incorporate into one’s own life. George W. Bush, the nation’s tort reform cheerleader, is a good example. When he was the governor of Texas, he also conducted a major tort reform campaign, but he took time out to file a lawsuit against a rental car agency because of an accident involving one of his daughters. According to legal experts, the lawsuit was probably not necessary because the insurance company would have handled the settlement. Bush’s attorney said the suit had to be filed because of problems with the insurance company, a statement that is easy for most of us to accept.

Now it is another major tort reformer, Robert Bork, who has filed a lawsuit against New York City’s Yale Club because of a fall he sustained there a year ago. Bork claims that the exclusive club failed to provide a handrail or stairs that would lead to the dais from which he was scheduled to speak at a banquet. In trying to ascend, his leg hit the side of the dias, and he whacked his head on a heat register.

Bork suffered a hematoma on his leg. It burst, and he had to have surgery, medical treatment and physical therapy. His lawsuit claims that he suffered “excruciating pain” and continues to walk with a limp.

Eric Turkewitz, who publishes the New York Personal Injury Law Blog, describes Bork’s lawsuit as “frivolous,” and you can read his reasons here.

Assume, for a moment, that the lawsuit is frivolous. That would make Bork a world-class hypocrite. Now assume that the lawsuit is justified: Does that make Bork a changed man? It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

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