Today, there isn't anyone wrong per se on the internet. Today's blog post is really an expression of desire: my desire to have enough time to write on an issue that I have pondered and studied for literally decades now. That issue us tort reform. Why do I bring this up? The proximal cause is two editorials in the New York Times from over the weekend. The first was titled Let Shooting Victims Sue and the second was Make Gun Companies Pay Blood Money. Editorials like these make my crazy.

The reason that those editorials get under my skin is not because of gun control. The reason is due to the distal cause of my frustration. That frustration is rooted in the culture of blame, the opportunism of suing everything in sight in search of a deep pocket, and growing dysfunction of the American civil judiciary. Gun control positions that push for penalties against people and entities not directly at fault for violence or criminal acts are a symptom of our broken system of torts in modern American Common Law.

I have some strong opinions about gun control which tend to make me unpopular with both the traditional pro-gun control and anti-gun control crowds. I believe that my disconnect with gun control opinions is due to the fact that I like to look at information before forming my opinions. But that's not why I'm writing right now. I can say lots about gun control and in fact have already done so on this blog. Issues of gun control were part of the original motivation for creating this blog, to give me a place for my little rants that I have inflicted over the years on those with whom I have shared space and opinions on social media like facebook, yahoo groups and mailing lists.

My problem today - and many other days - is one of time. My legal education started one day while researching the details of a civil suit in California. Since then I have been directly involved in several civil suits - and one criminal case - where my understanding of how our judicial system was earned by direct experience. So my pique at the two New York Times editorial is really less about gun control and more about the abuse of common law that they represent. Mind you, when I say "abuse," I'm really referring to a personal opinion I hold that the way we handle torts in this country is screwed.

So how did we get to this point of broken torts and dysfunctional common law, where the owner of a retirement home can be held liable and sued for the environmental clean-up costs of an abandoned mine shutdown a century in the past? Where a manufacturer can be targeted for "liability for damages" for an illegal backstreet sale of handguns by criminals over which that manufacturer has no control? Where million dollar settlements are awarded because someone was scalded by spilled hot coffee served at the drive-up window of a fast food restaurant? The examples are copious and seemingly endless. It's not a big stretch to see where I can form an opinion that our system of torts under common law is badly broken.

I have an unrequited desire to write about this in the depth that the subject deserves. It's a story that I believe started over a hundred years ago with the third worst disaster in terms of lives lost in American history. I have actually written up a bunch of stuff on this subject already but every time I try to conclude it, I end up writing five to ten more pages. It's on the wish list for this blog because there are a lot of folks out there who get the cause of this disaster dead wrong on the internet, including Wikipedia. It's got real teeth, this disaster. Thousands of people died, all in horrific ways. There are ready-made bad guys in the form of famous robber barons who altered a flood control structure for the convenience of a private hunting club. There's a long involved saga of engineering mishaps leading up to the disaster. And there is the lawsuit against those gilded-age robber barons that precipitated a fundamental alteration of American common law in defining who may be liable for damages in a tort action.

What happened here is that those robber barons and their private hunting club were sued. Many people thought then, and still believe now, that the hunting club members were at fault for the disaster. When that lawsuit against the robber barons failed the public outcry was such that the law of this country was changed in a way that third parties indirectly linked to events leading to a tort could be held liable. That change is the underlying event behind our modern culture of suing everything in sight and looking for parties to blame when things don't go the way we think they should.

It's a story I think I may turn into a book, given how much I've already researched and written. There's life and death, unbelievable engineering mistakes in water control structures, robber barons and private enclaves of privilege, a flood, a dam failure, and a nation astounded by the scale of human tragedy. It's called the Johnstown Flood in common parlance. You might have heard of it. It was the biggest American disaster of the 19th Century and today is outstripped in loss of life only by the 1900 Galveston Hurricane and the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

So I express here my frustration at not having the time to tell this story, not because it's a famous disaster, not even because people attribute the cause of the disaster incorrectly on the internet, but because it's a story about how our attitudes regarding blame and fault as a nation became the distorted mess they are today and why we so desperately need tort reform and will likely never get it in our lifetime.