Totally disagree with you on your view of punitive damages, cfalk. Sometimes plaintiff's are limited in how much they can ask for in compensatory damages and there certainly are cases, like the McDonald's Hot Coffee case, where the defendant has such an obvious track record of negligence and disregard for safety where punitive damages are needed. Why though, shouldn't they go to the plaintiff if the jury feels that the plaintiff deserves it? Not only that, but you're mistaking a few extraordinary cases for being the ordinary. Humongous punitive damages aren't normally given out, and when they are, they're often reduced by the judge presiding over the case or reduced on appeal (as happened with the McDonald's case) nor do attornies usually ask for them as it immediately sets the wrong tone with a jury. Not only that, the jurisdictions that do have punitive damage statutes (keep in mind many states don't) demand a higher burden of proof. There's the reform you're asking for, Csavel.
In general, I believe the tort system works fine as is. The media loves showcasing cases and twisting facts to generate ratings and readership, again, look what they did in the McDonald's case. To this day, a large majority of people have the facts of the case completely fouled up. The fact that many frivolous lawsuits get tossed out of court on a daily basis fails to make the news because it's not sexy and because of the sheer numbers. In a 25 year study run from 1965 to 1990 (slightly old data, I know, but one can expect it to stay roughly steady), there were 355 product liability cases in which juries awarded damages. Of those, only 35 had an award greater than $10 million. In all of those but one, the award was "sharply" reduced by judges. In other cases, the truly stupid cases, such as the recent one against WN
over their "Eenie, Meany, Miney, Moe" rhyme, a jury will return a finding of no liability against a company. I realize that the few sensationalized instances that make national and international headlines make it seem like runaway juries are commonplace, but they truly are not. Keep the tort system as is unless you want to wake up and suddenly find one day that you can't sue for product liability or negligence.
South Carolina - too small to be its own country, too big to be a mental asylum.