By Collin Levy
A majority of voters say that lawsuit abuse hurts economic growth and job prospects, according to a poll being released today by the American Tort Reform Association and a group called "Sick of Lawsuits."
The survey of 1,013 registered voters found that 60% think lawsuits against businesses have damaged the economy and slowed the recovery, and 88% support measures that would help protect proprietors from the kinds of lawsuits that could put them out of business. Overall, 89% of voters say lawsuit abuse is a problem and 78% think there are too many lawsuits—an opinion that draws large majorities from both sides of the political aisle, including 86% of Democrats.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has called the tort system "out of control" and noted that the lawsuit culture reduces innovation and competitiveness as companies routinely spend more on litigation than they do on research and development. Tort reform hasn't been on the short list of national issues for the tea party, where some argue that the reforms are a state issue, but the issue could play big in states like West Virginia, Wisconsin and other places where lawmakers are looking at cleaning up the tort system as a way to improve the state business climate.
According to ATRA, dealing with the lawsuit mess could be a good issue politically this fall, especially with the 89% of independents who consider the endless litigating bad for the economy. Altogether, 83% of those surveyed said they thought the liability lawsuit system "needs to be improved," and 73% said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who would support tort reform in office.