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'Craze for Lawsuits'

June 21, 1985

In his column (Editorial Pages, June 10), "Craze for Liability Lawsuits Is Expensive, and We All Pay," Ernest Conine bemoans the increase in liability insurance premiums and points his finger at the judicial system as the cause. He feels that the jury should consider not only whether it awards adequate compensation for a loss, but, in addition, the effect of its award on the insurance company of the wrongdoer who caused the injury in the first place. His priorities are out of order.

Decisions regarding fault and adequate compensation are not made by lawyers or those they represent. Nor are these decisions made by insurance companies--and properly so. The decisions are made for the most part by juries--12 citizens whose number may include executives, housewives, teachers or blue-collar workers.

They will spend perhaps a week, a month, or more, listening to the evidence, and then, after they are instructed how the law is to be applied, they pool their collective wisdom and experience and decide whether the plaintiff was harmed by the defendant's wrongful conduct and, if so, the amount that will compensate adequately. At best, the injured plaintiff breaks even. There is no profit.

Insurance companies, however, are in business for profit. When they want a higher profit, they raise rates. Their investment income alone buys them buildings and financial empires. Instead of looking for ways to limit damage awards, which are reached by fair-minded and unbiased juries, perhaps it may be more just to scrutinize the profit motives of the insurance companies.

JOHN P. BLUMBERG

Long Beach

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