Oregon Aims to Limit Attorney Fees

Nothing feels quite like being proven right.

Some time ago, I blogged about a defunct Colorado effort to limit the amount of money a plaintiff’s attorney could charge. I suggested that this was the future of “Tort Reformers,” reducing access to attorneys by attempting to lower the amount of money they earned, rather then the past effort to convince people that injuries and lives could only be worth set amounts.

Well, guess I’m right.

Now comes Oregon Republicans with a horrible ballot initiative, that they have tried to claim will “Protect Citizens from Excessive Attorney’s Fees.” Never mind the fact that the limit proposed is far, far, far below the industry wide norm. Never mind that nothing in the initiative would prevent defense attorneys defending corporations, or otherwise representing the people that can afford to pay high hourly rates upfront, from charging any amount they want an hour.

Everything that I said about the failed Colorado initiative still applies, this is an attempt to drive plaintiff’s attorneys out of business, so injured people can’t find lawyers willing to help them.

But here’s a new twist, the person who has donated the most money to the people putting these initiatives on the ballot, half the money raised, in fact, is a former manufacturer of medical devices. I’m sure that his donations are because he really cares about the issue, rather then the fact that he’d like to ensure that medical device manufacturers never get brought to justice when they make defective and dangerous products.

The contingency fee arrangement that most attorneys representing injured people use is designed to allow people who couldn’t otherwise afford a lawyer access to highly skilled attorneys. This type of meddling is designed, as I’ve said before, to reduce the number of attorneys willing and able to represent those harmed by another’s negligence.

Nathan T. Swanson
Summer Intern 2008
J.D. Candidate 2009
University of Denver