WHY WE NEED TO FIGHT TO PROTECT THE 7TH AMENDMENT. By Herb Santos, Jr.
“In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” – The 7th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
What are the words of the Nevada Constitution in regard to the right to a jury trial?
“The right of trial by Jury shall be secured to all and remain inviolate forever; but a Jury trial may be waived by the parties in all civil cases in the manner to be prescribed by law; and in civil cases, if three fourths of the Jurors agree upon a verdict it shall stand and have the same force and effect as a verdict by the whole Jury, Provided, the Legislature by a law passed by a two thirds vote of all the members elected to each branch thereof may require a unanimous verdict notwithstanding this Provision.” – Nevada Constitution, Article I, Section 3
Big business and insurance companies have thrown out terms like “tort reform,” “med mal reform,” “frivolous lawsuits” or “stop junk lawsuits” to the public to poison not only legislators, but the public into believing that every claim is frivolous. The goal is to make the public believe that every claim is ruining our economy. This was evident in the recent Nevada Special Session where SB4 was passed into law which provided immunity for COVID-19 claims. The advocates for immunity made claims of rampant litigation and argued that lawsuits would be the final straw to destroy small businesses in Nevada. I asked several of these advocates to show me the proof of the widespread litigation in Nevada and on a national level. I never received a response. My investigation confirmed the following as of July 13, 2020. On a national level, there were 3,419 complaints on file throughout the United States. Of these, there were 6 medical malpractice claims, 36 wrongful death claims, 11 personal injury claims and 285 labor and employment claims of which 143 were wrongful termination. What were the majority of claims? Civil rights claims (592 claims: included contesting business closures, essential versus nonessential, voting, school closing), consumer claims (233 claims: included price gouging, cancellations), contract disputes (178 claims: included event cancellations, construction closures, supply delays), prisoner petitions (575 claims), insurance claims (838 claims), real property (215 claims: including landlord-tenant, mortgage disputes). Again, these statistics are on a national level through July 13, 2020. Simply put, the advocates for immunity used unsupported fear tactics to convince the legislature to pass an immunity bill.
The reality is that the advocates for limiting or eliminating liability laws are targeting our 7th Amendment rights. Simply put, “tort reform” is an attack on the 7th Amendment to the
United States Constitution. The erosion of the 7th Amendment will become far reaching. Today it was COVID-19. What will the next “emergency” be to justify eliminating responsibility for negligent conduct? I firmly believe that immunity breeds negligence. When there is no rule making people accountable for their actions when they harm someone, will people make reasonable efforts to follow the rules? We need to repeal immunity laws and tell our elected officials that we do not want laws that protect people who do not follow the rules and cause harm to others. We need to stand up and protect our 7th Amendment rights. If we sit back and do nothing, what type of society will evolve? Will you and your family be safe? Knowing that they cannot be held accountable, will businesses stop following the rules? Will medication be safe for our children? Will vehicles be made with the properly designed and manufactured safety features? It is up to us to stop the attack. We need to let everyone know that we will never stand for profits over people. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our community.
Herb Santos, Jr., Esq.
Herb is a NJA Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist. He is recognized by the National Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group as one of America’s leading attorneys representing injured workers. Herb was also selected as the 2018 Trial Lawyer of the Year in Nevada.