NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The U.S. Tort Explosion Is Effecting Britain

November 16, 1998

The tort litigation explosion is catching on in Britain as well as the United States, say observers. Lawyers and their clients are actively borrowing from the American experience.

  • Compensation and legal fees paid out by the National Health Service, for instance, have increased fivefold since 1991 and are expected to reach $500 million this year.
  • In 1997, 73 percent of judgments in negligence cases were in favor of the plaintiff.
  • Class action suits -- called "representative action" suits in Britain -- have been filed against a number of pharmaceutical and cellular-phone companies.

The definition of liability has been expanded by the courts, say observers, and businesses are being held responsible for the actions of others, even when they are beyond their control. For example, the holiday tour operator Thomson was ordered to pay compensation to two women who experienced sexual harassment on a vacation to Tunisia. And a group has been formed to sue McDonald's because they were scalded by hot drinks.

Source: Frank Furedi, "Britain Imports America's Tort Crisis," Wall Street Journal, November 16, 1998.


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