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Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue Paperback – December 3, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (December 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743277015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743277013
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.7 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,319,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Investigative reporter Mencimer, a contributing editor to the Washington Monthly, takes on tort reformers with an energetic "serve and volley" approach. First Mencimer serves the arguments that proponents of tort reform make to support their agenda—limiting judicial remedies for victims of accidents, product liability suits, medical malpractice suits and the like—and then volleys those arguments back with statistics, anecdotes and conceptual arguments. She guides readers through many of the tort reformers' most cherished poster children of tort system abuse—the McDonald's scalding coffee case, the supposed abuses in medical malpractice and the tort reform movement's bête noire, the diabolical system of punitive damages—and systematically, and usually convincingly, debunks each of them. Mencimer identifies the architects of the tort reform movement as Republicans, corporations and professional groups that stand to gain politically or economically if the tort system is limited. The book's conclusion addresses the larger issue of the wisdom of requiring wrongdoers to pay for the damages from their actions, as opposed to other systems that employ social safety nets to spread the cost of such harm throughout the society. Although the author's advocacy is occasionally too zealous, she provides much food for thought. (Dec. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

By demonizing trial attorneys and exaggerating high-profile litigation awards--the famous McDonald's hot-coffee case--campaigns for limiting damage awards threaten to jeopardize the American right to civil jury trials guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Investigative reporter Mencimer examines the Republican campaigns for tort reform that would protect large corporations from "frivolous lawsuits." The campaigns carry the dual benefit of supporting the interests of corporations that are major Republican campaign contributors and hurting trial lawyers, who are part of the contribution base of Democrats. Mencimer criticizes the media for their lack of understanding about civil litigation, willingness to swallow reports of litigation abuses, and failure to understand that Republican tort reform will also limit the ability of news organizations to sue for information. Drawing on national data and scrutiny of individual cases, Mencimer defends the civil justice system and its reliance on jurors, average citizens who are the same people who vote. This is an eye-opening look at an important issue for readers concerned with the civil justice system. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Stephanie Mencimer is a contributing editor at the Washington Monthly. Her first book, Blocking the Courthouse Door has just been released.

Previously she worked as an investigative reporter at the Washington Post, a senior writer at the Washington City Paper and a staff writer for Legal Times. She has written for the New York Times, New Republic, Legal Affairs, American Propsect, Mother Jones and other national publications. In 2004, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in the public service category for her Washington Monthly article on medical malpractice politics, and in 2000, won the Harry Chapin media award for reporting on hunger and poverty.

Stephanie was born and raised in Ogden, Utah. She graduated from the University of Oregon journalism school in 1990.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on March 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of us have heard of Stella Liebeck, the 79-year old lady who put a hot cup of McDonald's coffee on her lap, which spilled over and caused her third degree burns. If many respected publications did not make sure we knew, than John Stossel surely did. We "learned" that she was awarded $2.9 million. According to the author Stephanie Mencimer, those who favor "tort reform" (limiting personal injury and suffering) made sure we knew, but didn't make sure that we knew the whole story. The author elaborates.

It seems this retired retail sales clerk and life-long Republican had never sued anyone a day in her life. Having stopped for coffee with her grandson, she attempted to negotiate the cream or sugar to the coffee between her legs as her grandson's car lacked cup holders. It spilled and she was scolded in her groin and thighs.

A few years and several operations later she appeals to McDonalds asking them if they could help her pay the $20,000 in medical expenses. Mickey D blew her off with a check for $800. That's when she retained a lawyer who offered to settle at $300,000, but McDonalds wouldn't touch it with a straw. They wanted to be taken to court.

That's when the jury, skeptical of Liebeck's claim at first, heard that McDonald's had more than 900 complaints of their coffee being too hot, that their executives knew that their coffee was served at 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, that Mickey D's Big Cheeses knew all along such temperatures could burn flesh off bone in seven seconds, and that a Cincinnati burn center had treated numerous people for coffee burns from McD.

The outraged jury awarded her $160,000 for pain and suffering and $2.7 million in punitive damages, which the judge, although sympathetic, knocked down to $486,000.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Groner VINE VOICE on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This important book should have received more attention when it was published. Presumably, "tort reform" is just not a sexy enough topic, and even the bright yellow cover and the (presumably intentional) absence of the word "tort" from the title were insufficient.

Avoiding legalese almost completely, Mencimer gives an in-depth account of the lobbying and litigation wars over the civil justice system in the past two decades or so. Unlike other commentators, I didn't find this book an unquestioning brief for the trial lawyers. Mencimer makes clear that some trial lawyers can become extraordinarily wealthy and that some baseless and even frivolous suits are filed. Her real point is that some major companies have tried to achieve in the halls of Congress and the state legislatures and in the ballot box what they could not achieve in court.

The story of the McDonald's coffee lawsuit has been told elsewhere, but Mencimer goes well beyond this to point out other distortions of the truth that have been made by lobbyists for insurance and other industries.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Philly Phool on June 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For the most part, I agree with the premise of this book: That what republicans are billing as tort reform is a bad idea. One that will cost the average American dearly and reap hefty profits for big business. Corporations, now able to determine their exposure to litigation, can be free to market any product, no matter how dangerous, knowing that there will be a cap on their punitive damages. The American public becomes a guinea pig to corporate irresponsibility. Not a good picture!

That said, as I read this book, I found myself going from unabashed contempt at the behavior of some big business defendants in their attempts to discredit their plaintiff's cases and obtain a 'free break' from liability to incredulity at some of what she was calling 'legitimate lawsuits'. Much of my problem with this book was what I felt I wasn't being told. A woman was abducted from a Wal-Mart parking lot and subsequently raped. She sues Wal-Mart for not having sufficient security to prevent the incident. We are never told if Wal-Mart had any security in effect at the time nor what the legal requirements on the retailer were for providing such security. Don't you think that is relevant to the legitimacy of her case?

A man goes to a doctor's office to have a mole removed. The doctor performs the procedure and leaves him in the room for a period of time said to be 'long'. He falls off the table he was laying on and breaks his neck. He sues the doctor for his injury. How long was he left to wait? Might that be important? I believe that when doctor's aren't in the room with you they are doing this thing we call 'seeing other patients'. In fact, when they are in the room with you, there are actually other patients in other rooms left waiting.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Gilberg on February 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Excellent, well researched and entertaining (in the sense that a horrifying automobile accident fascinates...). The sad part about this book is that the horse is already out of the corral when it comes to the individual's access to a fair and just legal system. The deck has been stacked by near infinite piles of corporate cash but the average citizen has yet to take notice. Perhaps this book can help start the pendulum swinging in the direction of "justice reform."
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