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《经济学人》:侵权法改革的弊与利

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Tort reform

侵权法改革
Closing the lottery
不能再靠碰运气
The debate over tort reform generates exaggerated claims, but also a few good ideas
改革催生了大量索赔,但也带来一些好观念
IN HIS floundering campaign for president, Rick Perry has at least brought one topic into prominence: tort reform. In June the governor of Texas signed a “loser pays” tort law, intended to discourage slight or frivolous lawsuits by making losers pay the winners’ legal costs. Conservatives are eager to support it. The right has maintained for decades that America’s legal culture smothers small businesses, doctors and innovators.

里克•佩里的竞选之路举步维艰,但他提出的“侵权法改革”却引起热议。今年六月,这位德州州长签署了 “败诉赔付”的侵权法案,规定侵权案的败诉方要补偿胜诉方的法律成本,希望以此减少一些琐细无聊的侵权诉讼。该法案得到保守分子的大力支持。几十年来,右派人士坚持认为,美国的法律文化窒息了小企业、医生和创新者。

Too bad, then, that the Texas law is timid. “Loser pays” is the norm in many countries, including England, Canada and Germany. But there, “loser pays” is the rule in most torts. The Texas bill awards legal costs only for suits “that have no basis in law or in fact” and are dismissed before any evidence is gathered. Most competent lawyers can write a complaint that clears this bar. Even the Texas trial-lawyers’ association eventually endorsed Mr Perry’s law.

糟糕透顶的是,德州的这项法律太过小心。在英格兰、加拿大、德国等许多国家,“败诉赔付”已是处理侵权纠纷的常规标准,不过在这些国家这一规定适用于多数侵权案的裁定,而德州“败诉赔偿”法律只适用于那些“缺少法律或事实基础”且在证据收集前就被撤案的诉讼。大多数合格的律师能够写出避开这个障碍的诉状。即便德克萨斯州辩护律师联合会最终也同意了佩里的这个法案。

Only one other state, Alaska, has loser-pays, and only for a portion of fees. More intriguingly, Florida imposed “loser-pays” in 1980 for medical-malpractice cases. The number of claims dropped, but the average award rose, suggesting that more high-merit cases got their day in court while low-merit filings were deterred or settled for less. But many losing plaintiffs were too poor to pay the winners’ costs, while in one case a losing defendant had to pay millions for the plaintiff’s legal fees. Even doctors supported the law’s repeal in 1985.

还有另外唯一一个实行败诉偿付的州,那就是阿拉斯加,但这里败诉方支付的仅是胜诉方法律成本的一部分。更有趣的是,1980年佛罗里达州在处理医疗事故案例时就使用过“败方赔偿”制度。这种制度的实施使诉讼的数量下降了,但平均裁决赔偿额提高了,这表明,诉诸法律的更多的是那些一方获胜把握比较大的案子,而那些胜算不大的侵权纠纷,诉讼数量或判决数量都减少了。但是,有很多败诉的原告生活穷困,无力支付对方的法律成本,而在另一起诉讼中,败诉的被告要支付原告数百万元的法律费用。在1985年,连医生都支持废除这项法律。

Marie Gryphon of the Manhattan Institute, a centre-right think-tank, who is author of a loser-pays proposal, says that Texas got “much less than half a loaf”, and that Florida was spooked too quickly. She argues that loser-pays countries need legal insurance, which can be bought (for example) in England for just £100-200 ($150-300) after an alleged loss, but before a suit is filed. Lawyers can advance the premiums and add them to their bills. In other countries, such as Germany, many households carry standing legal insurance with a small monthly premium. Ms Gryphon argues that in such a mature loser-pays market more small-value but high-merit cases would be brought, while both small “nuisance” suits and big “lottery” suits would be less attractive to lawyers.

中右派智库“曼哈顿研究会”的马莉•格里芬,曾提交一项败方赔付的提案,她说,德州推行的政策“远远不达到应有的水平”,而佛罗里达州在面对问题时退缩得太快。马莉认为,那些实行败诉赔付制度的国家需要有法律保险,比如,在英格兰,如果指控提出,当事人可在立案之前,花100-200英镑(150-300美元)来购买法律保险。律师也可以预付保险费并将这笔费用加在他们的账单中。在德国等其他国家,许多家庭将法律保险并入到每月缴纳的保险费中。格里芬女士认为,在“败诉赔付”制度比较成熟的国家,那些小额的“骚扰”官司和大额的“彩票”官司对律师吸引力都会减小。

Loser-pays has yet to be properly tried in America. Another idea, however, is in place in many states: capping damages. In the popular imagination runaway juries routinely impose huge non-economic damages (to punish a defendant or make up for a plaintiff’s suffering). In practice, headline-grabbing awards are often reduced by judges: the notorious $2.7m in punitive damages for a woman who spilled scalding McDonald’s coffee on her lap in 1994 ended up at $480,000.

败诉赔付制度在美国还未能充分试行,另一种思想已在多州兴起:为侵权赔偿规定最高限额。在普通民众的想像中,肆意而为的陪审团常常施以巨额的非经济损失(以惩罚被告或补偿原告的损失)。事实上,一些案值惊人的裁决常被法官人为减少,一个著名案例是,1994年,一位妇女在麦当劳腿被热咖啡烫伤,270万美元的损害赔偿最后以48万元结案。

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eventually [i'ventjuəli]

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adv. 终于,最后

 
association [ə.səusi'eiʃən]

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n. 联合,结合,交往,协会,社团,联想

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exaggerated [ig'zædʒəreitid]

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adj. 言过其辞的,夸大的 动词exaggerate的

 
frivolous ['frivələs]

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adj. 轻佻的,妄动的,琐碎的 adj. 无足轻重的

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attractive [ə'træktiv]

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adj. 有吸引力的,引起注意的

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lottery ['lɔtəri]

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n. 彩票

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norm [nɔ:m]

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n. 标准,规范

 
repeal [ri'pi:l]

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v. 废止,撤消

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competent ['kɔmpitənt]

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adj. 有能力的,胜任的,足够的

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