The Beast Ponders: Are Lawyers Killing America?


The Daily Beast presents a package of commentaries and excerpts focused on Philip K. Howard’s new book, “Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans From Too Much Law.” In the book, Howard uses “how absurd!” examples of lawsuits to build his case: the hot-coffee case that got McDonald’s socked with $2.7 million in punitive damages (later reduced); the citizen who was charged with assault for bringing down a runaway mugger; the judge who sued his dry cleaner for $54 million for losing his pants, and the Teach for America teacher who held the arm of a rebellious teenager and faced a lawsuit seeking $20 million.

Howard, a lawyer, first hit a nerve in 1996 with his trenchant bestseller The Death of Common Sense. The Beast’s package on his new book includes reviews by Eric Posner, professor of law at the University of Chicago, and Robert Silver, a senior partner at the powerhouse firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner. The website asks, “Is Howard right? Or does his campaign threaten to deprive individuals of protection against abuse by other individuals or powerful corporations, like the now-bankrupt Peanut Corp.? And if there is an epidemic of vexatious lawsuits, how precisely do you produce a remedy that doesn't go too far in the other direction?”

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