Tort Reform, Defamation of Character, Depression in the Technology Age, and Other Modern Ethical Qualms

According to the Pacific Research Institute’s (“PRI”) Report on the “US Tort Liability Index: 2010 Report“, the USA leads the list of 11 industrialized nations as being the nation with the highest tort costs as a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product, namely 2.2%. The CIA’s World Factbook put the USA’s GDP in 2010 at about $15 trillion. That equals about $330 billion in tort costs in 2010 for the USA. These costs are comprised of insurance costs, self-insurance costs, and medical malpractice costs.

Out of all 50 states in the country, California is the 10th most litigious state based on tort costs and tort litigation costs, according to the PRI report. California is ranked as the 4th most risky tort litigation climate in the country because of its large numbers of lawyers and lawsuits and large tort awards at trial. California is ranked as the absolute worst as far as absolute monetary tort losses with an estimated $16 billion in such. The PRI article recommends all sorts of tort reform for California; however this article focuses on something a bit different for Californians, as well as the other highly litigious states in the country, including New York and New Jersey: Ethics Reform.

Technology is everywhere, drawing connections between groups and individuals where none previously existed. In one way, it brings us more in contact with one another. Yet, there is the downside. There have been articles about certain social media sites causing depression amongst Americans because everybody presents a happy, shiny vision of themselves on their profiles, causing people to feel worse about themselves in private because their lives don’t seem to measure up to such public standards. Of course, one can say that the beauty industry has been doing this for decades with its mythology of what beautiful is, especially in light of software tricks that make unreal images of models who don’t even look like themselves when the software is finished with their photos.

Indeed, technology is a double-edged sword. Perhaps part of the litigiousness of our nation, and especially of California, New York, and New Jersey, is caused by the ultimate distance that technology has placed between us, what with people feeling far more heady and sharp-tongued to slash and burn at each other’s character, business, and style on the internet’s social media sites, review sites, video posting sites, and all their comment sections, not to mention through the modes of email, text message, and of course the telephone.

Gone are the days of face to face meetings and stand-up folks, it seems. It makes me wistful for a bygone era that I never really knew but for my days spent staring at the several Norman Rockwell magazine images I cut out and pasted on my bedroom walls as a youth. I knew then what I know now, yet now I can put it into words much better:

Tell the truth. Keep your word. Don’t lie and cheat. Don’t gossip and talk trash about others. Be fair in your dealings. Show up on time, and be prepared. Do your work really well. Study hard. Stand up for what’s right. Don’t take advantage of other’s weaknesses. Don’t cower under a bully’s fist. Don’t take your frustrations out on innocent people. Don’t be jealous. Don’t try to destroy the good that others work hard to create. Don’t cause trouble underneath the table. If you can’t be proud and speak publicly of what you’ve done and what you believe, then maybe you shouldn’t be saying anything but rather watching, listening, and learning from greater men and women than yourself. Don’t let your ego get in the way of your growth. Be decent. Don’t break the law. Be compassionate, empathetic, and forgiving.

To be sure, yes, there are villains in the world, and that is part of the reason why my law practice exists — to confront and vanquish them. That may sound ridiculous to the cynics, of which the internet may erroneously lead us to believe are many; but I’ve never really felt much for them. I’m of the ilk that feels my heartstrings tugged by the little green frog who sat in a swamp playing the banjo and singing about “the lovers, the dreamers and me.” Yes, my law practice is a business, and I do my work with my mind fixed both on reality and my ideals. Because it’s important to help defend us all against villains, but it’s even more important to not become a villain in the process of defending ourselves from them.

For when it comes right down to it, perhaps it’s just as simple now as it was for me as a youth, in days when I used to stand in the corner of my little bedroom in our $350 per month apartment as a Second Grader in the Summertime, a young immigrant latchkey child growing up outside of Manhattan, with my hand on my heart facing the little flag I hung up on my bedroom window and saying proudly the Pledge of Allegiance each and every Summer morning simply to feel closer to my school mates and our little town. And this begins to get at what we need more than any kind of tort reform, my friends. I knew quietly then as I know proudly today that the most important thing is simply to be good.

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