DMI Blog

Cyrus Dugger


This post chronicles the launch of a new series: Tort Victim Tragedies.

Each week I will highlight the case of an injured person who was (or likely will be) denied full justice because of changes made to state law by the national anti-civil justice movement (aka the "tort reform" movement).

(second edition, third edition)

Unknown to most Americans, their right and their ability to access the courts are under assault from what is truly a mass movement by business interests to shield themselves from liability for their misconduct.

This "tort reform" movement frames its agenda as reasonable reform geared to protect corporations from what they describe as frivolous lawsuits which drive up the cost of business, and ostensibly hurt the state's economy.

In most of my posts, I will be addressing the fallacies of the anti-civil justice movement arguments. However, every Tuesday, I will do something unique and perhaps unprecedented.

One of the strengths of the anti-civil justice movement is its ability to put the spotlight on specific ludicrous sounding lawsuits in order to characterize the entire civil justice system as "out of control."

As I've described before in my previous post "Why You Should be Able to Sue McDonald's if You Spill Coffee on Yourself," and as I will continue to describe, often these characterizations distort and re-tell critical aspects of these cases which would otherwise support a finding that they were not frivolous.

One organization has a representative list of said spotlights.

This constant media barrage of outrageous lawsuits has shaped the public opinion against the very civil justice system which protects us.

As a response to this anti-civil justice media barrage, each week I will highlight the other side of this coin: the real victims who are left without access to full justice because of the effects of the laws pushed through the state legislatures by the anti-civil justice movement.

This first week begins with the case of Christian Stratton.

Please join us each Tuesday to read incredibly sobering stories regarding the effects (and in this case the likely effects) of the anti-civil justice movement on real people's lives and families.

Picture of Victim


Story below

"On September 19, 2005 Christian Stratton, a 5 month old bubbly baby boy, awoke at 6:00 AM to his mother's loving smile. Just 12 hours later at 6:00 PM, Christian was strapped to a gurney in a helicopter, comatose, with a breathing tube, being life-flighted to a local high-level hospital for children. He was brain-dead. Two days later he died 20 minutes after life-support was withdrawn.

That morning Christian fell and injured his neck. An emergency room (ER) doctor missed his neck injury, and, as result, Christian died 2 days later. Under new Georgia tort reform laws, it may be difficult for Christian's parents to hold the ER doctor accountable for Christian's death.

New Georgia tort reform laws require victims of emergency room negligence to prove "gross negligence" by a "clear and convincing" degree,, instead of proving "negligence" by a "preponderance of the evidence" as is the case in all other cases of medical malpractice - a much lower requirement. Doctors at the emergency room where Christian was examined after his fall failed to "clear" his cervical spine. That failure to diagnose the cervical injury caused his death."

The "gross negligence" and "clear and convincing" requirement for victims of ER negligence is a much higher burden of proof than required for other victims of medical negligence. This ER gross negligence requirement risks creating a lower quality of health care due to ER doctors not having to meet the same standards as other doctors. The practical consequence of the new law is that in Georgia practically all ER doctors can commit negligence resulting in death and catastrophic injury without any accountability to their victims or their families - Georgia law, to the financial benefit of doctors and insurance companies, may prevent his parents from getting any degree of accountability for their baby's tragic and preventable death."

Click here for the full story from EurWeb.

Click here to watch an interview with the mother.

Click here to watch coverage of the protest of this tort reform bill.

Click here to contact a local NGO working to address this issue.

If you would like any more information about this case (including the formal complaint) please feel free to contact me.

To read the second edition, click here.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about or working on these types of civil justice issues, please feel free to contact me at

Cyrus Dugger
Senior Fellow in Civil Justice
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

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Posted at 12:33 PM, Jul 25, 2006 in Civil Justice
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