In Race, Poverty and American Tort Awards (and here), Eric Helland and I show that tort awards increase strongly with county poverty rates especially with minority poverty. A 1% increase in black poverty rates, for example, can increase tort awards by 3-10 percent with a similar increase in Hispanic poverty rates. Careful forum shopping can easily raise awards by 50-100%.
Anthony Buzbee, a famed plaintiff’s attorney, inadvertently let the cat out of the bag recently when talking about Starr county in Texas.
"That venue probably adds about seventy-five percent to the value of
the case," he said. "You’ve got an injured Hispanic client, you’ve got
a completely Hispanic jury, and you’ve got an Hispanic judge. All
right. That’s how it is."
In other parts of Texas, Buzbee went on, a plaintiff may have the
burden of showing "here’s what the company did wrong, all right? But
when you’re in Starr County, traditionally, you need to just show that
the guy was working, and he was hurt. And that’s the hurdle: Just prove
that he wasn’t hurt at Wal-Mart, buying something on his off time, and
traditionally, you win those cases."
Buzbee’s words were caught on tape. Need I tell you the rest of the story? Buzbee, of course, is suing. I wonder where he will bring the case?
Thanks to Ted Frank at Overlawyered for the pointer.