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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Mass Tort Claims – Do Shrinking Jobs and Insurance Benefits Increase Propensity to Claim ?

Recent news has been full of stories about rapid general inflation around the world, especially increased food costs leading to protests (and worse) around the globe. Today’s news also include an article from the NYT that details soaring co-payment expenses in the US. For a tort lawyer, these articles bring to mind an ongoing tort litigation issue: the propensity to file tort claims.

The tort litigation world includes much argument and posturing regarding propensity to claim. The debate about claiming is made somewhat useless when the two sides cite extreme examples of fraud, which can be either inarguably fraudulent claiming or inarguably fraudulent corporate conduct. What it would be good to see is a meaningful article looking at the propensity to claim as a function of micro economic events, such as manufacturing plant closings, or as a function of the elimination or reduction of medical benefits by a company, especially for retirees. One also wonders of there is meaningful correlation between claiming and macro numbers for inflation of unemployment. Please speak up if you know of any research on these points – I’ve not seen any.

Until there is research, I’ll rely on my personal observation that it seems plain that prospective plaintiffs are often-created when a business closes a plant, completely terminates its retiree medical insurance plans, or insurance benefits are materially reduced. Indeed, when manufacturing plants close, some plaintiff’s firms sometimes target the former plant workers as potential plaintiffs, and medical screenings may follow if the plant included use of “toxins.” Simply put, otherwise proud and independent retirees who have significant medical issues sometimes say “off the record” that tort litigation is the only means they know of to try to create cash flow sufficient to cover medical expenses. Thus, corporations and governments sometimes may actually be “the cause” behind increased tort claiming. Thinking globally, one would think that global tort claiming will increase as economic changes are harder and harder on the middle class and on those persons already at the bottom of the economic ladder.

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