unfortunately the "spirit of the law" can be interpreted how ever the judge and lawyers can give out the better argument. its been known that one simple law can be read in one way, but interpreted in 10 different ways.
This problem is more one of language than of the judicial system. Language never seems to be quite fine enough an instrument for articulating rules, especially when the factors shaping the events to which those rules will apply beggar prediction. Unless you can think of a better medium than language, though, I'm afraid we will always be stuck with some degree of legal vagary.
Tort reform, especially with regards to frivolous lawsuits, i.e. Your hot McD's coffee burned me so I'm suing you for $100 million in damages. It is also especially needed in the medical malpractice arena, as doctors are increasingly practicing "defensive medicine" by avoiding patients with conditions that can be seen as litigious, or dropping high risk medical specialties (like obstetrics) altogether.
Tort reform is not nearly as simple an issue as its advocates make it out to be.
There are, to be sure, too many frivolous lawsuits of all sorts. That said, the nonsensical tort verdicts that get splashed all over headlines and wailed about on the evening news tend to be aberrant. Moreover, they are frequently reduced or set aside on post-verdict motions or appeals. Judicial correction of runaway or legally groundless verdicts, to the extent it receives media coverage at all, tends not to appeal to emotion and is thus all too frequently ignored in the public debate.
In the medical malpractice arena, the extraordinarily high cost of litigation (primarily the fees paid to doctors who consult on the cases and testify as expert witnesses at trial) acts as a fairly effective brake on ill-considered suits. Costs in a complicated medical malpractice lawsuit can easily run well into six figures. For this reason, attorneys (who most often advance the costs and, in unsuccessful cases, are ultimately stuck with them) tend to reject cases which are marginal, either because the question of the doctor's malpractice is a close one or because the patient's injuries are not likely to garner a very large recovery. As a result, potential medical malpractice plaintiffs whose injuries are not fairly catastrophic are underserved, and doctors whose incompetence may have been ignored by colleagues and, but for the grace of god, might have caused far worse injuries, often get off scot-free. The enactment of legislation which would eliminate or drastically reduce recoveries for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases can only be expected to exacerbate these problems.
Product liability cases -- another favorite target of the so-called reformers -- likewise also frequently entail significant, litigation-dampening expense. In addition to the fees charged by medical experts who will testify about the cause, extent, and future consequences of the plaintiff's bodily injuries, there is the additional expense of having to hire well-credentialed experts on arcane matters of product design and manufacture, and on the body of applicable scientific knowledge. The result, again, is that plaintiffs' attorneys filter out a lot of marginal cases.
Another issue all too frequently lost in the furor over tort reform is the extent to which these cases, especially in the field of product liability, provide a form of salutary regulation not imposed by other organs of government, much less by industry. It is not such a bad thing, for example, that fingers are now protected by blade guards on circular saws, that lives and limbs of children are now saved by sensors in power car windows and garage doors, that cars are now designed so that their occupants no longer sit on top of exploding gas tanks, etc. And, I think, it is fair to question when, if ever, many of the product safety improvements we now take for granted would have been adopted, and when many toxic products (e.g., asbestos insulation) would have been eliminated from the marketplace, were it not for the exemplary power of an occasional staggering verdict. Unfortunately, though, the benefit of tort litigation for society in reducing the numbers of bad products and instances of substandard medical care is frequently ignored in the sturm und drang
over the expense.
Finally, while I am not unmindful that the economic interests of tort litigators push them to oppose reform of the system, it is perhaps worthwhile to inquire from what quarters come the hue and cry for verdict reduction.