By The Law Fish
After reading Engel’s Myth of the Litigious Society, I am quick to say I am not surprised by any of the information or statistics given within his text. I think it is apparent that the trend throughout this book is to bring forward the fear that lies among Americans regarding our litigation system. But the real question to ask is whether this fear, the one that causes “lumping,” is something that is applicable to all aspects of life as an American.
As I reflect upon what I’ve taken from this text, I find myself learning and relating to much of what I learned in undergraduate study, specifically about stigmas in our culture and fear around such “hard-to-talk-about” topics. The important aspect of a tort that make it so hard to talk about is what this book focuses on: the injury. The view on injuries in America is so broad because of the vast amount of cultures within our “melting pot.” On page 93, Engel begins his analysis about cosmologies of cause and effect, emphasizing on how our religious, philosophical, scientific, and other perspectives give influence on why bad things happen to us. In better words, this cosmology of cause and effect gives us a reason to blame ourselves or natural conditions for the “unfortunate” situations that happen throughout life. The way I look at it, and the way the book explains, these are not unfortunate situations; rather they are situations that could have been prevented before or corrected had we not pushed them down and ignored their true meaning.
After reading through and understanding the different aspects that come together to make sense of the American way of “lumping,” my view that I previously had on the civil dispute resolution system in the United States has begun to fade away. Before, my view of the system was that it is difficult. Needless to say, I don’t think that view of mine has completely vanished, as I have learned through my first year of law school that the legal system is meant to be difficult for the average person to understand. After all, we wouldn’t have jobs post-grad if that weren’t the case! But with that being said, I think much of what we think makes the legal system difficult is mistaken for us as a society actually being the ones who are difficult.
Over the years, individuals around our country have pushed for change, and thankfully have succeeded. But we can’t ignore the fact that we are a society who can still be stuck in its ways. I know that as a young, striving professional in a society that seems to develop more quickly by the day, self-sufficient individualism (as mentioned on page 95) is something that is extremely important to me. My father is the same way, as a first generation American, feeling the need to make the best life that he possibly can for himself, and again my grandfather was that way as an immigrant, feeling obligated to make his life better than what it was before. It is something that has been ingrained in and passed down to us from generation to generation. I am not saying that being a self-sufficient individual is a bad thing, because it’s most definitely not. I do think though that it has created a huge barrier for us to hurdle. Asking the legal system for help or admitting that you were injured would take that self-sufficient individualism away. Why even bother sticking our foot into that door, just to have everything we have striven for over the years be washed down the drain?
That brings us to the million-dollar question: what would my tort reform look like now that my knowledge of our litigation system is somewhat advanced? I would begin with us as a society. Based on my explanation above, I don’t really believe there can be a feasible way to approach such a topic without starting from the root of the issue. I believe that as much as we are continuing to move in the right direction (for the most part) as a society, it will be difficult to peel back the ideologies that we have created which prevent us from seeking help. Is my approach of attacking the public before attacking our litigation system the most feasible? Doubtful. But as one fish among many other’s swimming in this broad, ocean of law, I have no reason to distrust our abilities as a whole to combine our different approaches in order to make an indestructible tort reform.