Columns

THE EXPERT WITNESS: Econometrics and case law (Part 1)

April 16 ,2024

As a doctoral-level scholar, I and others in the fields of Economics, Statistics, and Econometrics practice the use of many economic-measuring tools, such as the findings of Forensic Economists. Typically, an economist studies and uses various economic methodologies in his/her work with practicing attorneys. As the caseloads of many law firms focus on Personal Injury and Death cases and on cases concerning Business Law, the preferred work for these applications comes from the work of Jan Tinbergen.
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The relationship of econometrics to economics and statistics


By John Francis Sase
Gerard Senick,
editor
July Sase,
reviewer
William Gross,
researcher

As a doctoral-level scholar, I and others in the fields of Economics, Statistics, and Econometrics practice the use of many economic-measuring tools, such as the findings of Forensic Economists. Typically, an economist studies and uses various economic methodologies in his/her work with practicing attorneys. As the caseloads of many law firms focus on Personal Injury and Death cases and on cases concerning Business Law, the preferred work for these applications comes from the work of Jan Tinbergen. Tinbergen (12 April 1903 – 9 June 1994) was a Dutch economist, author, and academic who received the first Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, an award that he shared with Norwegian Economist Ragnar Frisch in 1969. They developed and applied dynamic models for analyzing economic processes. Economists widely consider Tinbergen to be one of the most influential economists of the 20th Century and one of the founders of Econometrics, the branch of Economics concerned with mathematical methods.

The critical contributions by Tinbergen to Econometrics include the development of the first macroeconomic models, the solution of the identification problem, and the understanding of dynamic models. Tinbergen also served as a founding trustee of Economists for Peace and Security, the United Nations-accredited global organization of economists, political scientists, and security established in 1989.

In 1945, Tinbergen founded the Bureau for Economics Policy Analysis (CPB) and was the agency’s first director. Tinbergen remains well-known to English-speaking readers as the author of numerous technical journal articles. Furthermore, he served as the director of the study on Statistical Testing of Business-Cycle Theories by the League of Nations and co-authored a respected book, with Dutch Economist Jacques Jacobus Polak, “The Dynamics of Business Cycles: A Study in Economic Fluctuations.” First published in Holland in 1942, (“The Dynamics of Business Cycles” was published in America in 1950 by the University of Chicago Press).

Tinbergen intended this book to serve as a traveling guide for economists and others who wish to go sightseeing in the domain of Econometrics. “The Dynamics of Business Cycles” continues to serve as a fundamental guide through the accumulation of economic literature published in this subfield of Economics over the years.

In his writing, Tinbergen assumes that students interested in this ever-developing field may have yet to study Mathematical Economics. He believed that earlier thinkers in Economics thought that the level of learning in elementary-school mathematics and secondary-school algebra courses that include basic graphic-presentation skills would suffice.

However, in recent decades, economists have attempted to focus on the logical foundations of this area of science to describe the results more effectively. As a younger branch of science, Econometrics can be learned from periodical articles, instructional videos, and updated textbooks.

Tinbergen exclaimed, “May this guide stimulate the desire for traveling!”

The Relationship of Econometrics to Economics and Statistics:

Economics/Statistics/Econometrics

Those of us who teach Economics and Statistics have felt an acute need for textbooks that offer students an adequate introduction to the growing number of Econometric studies in print and other media. Tinbergen intended that his book would fill this need precisely. He did a great job!

Econometrics


The subfield of Econometrics continues to address the mathematical formulation of economic hypotheses. Furthermore, Tinbergen emphasized a forward view toward statistical testing of such hypotheses. Over more than a half-century, we have evolved from using somewhat primitive devices to equipment that holds more data extensively and processes it faster. Some even fit comfortably into a coat pocket!

Competency


Econometricians need to develop three directions of competencies:   becoming an Economic Theorist, an Economic Mathematician, and an Economic Statistician. Therefore, we need to remain unsurprised that Econometric Studies receive criticism from one or more of these three other points of view by specialists in their fields. Therefore, Econometrics remains an interdisciplinary science, and students of Econometrics must remain patient and respect all of the three interdisciplinary fields mentioned above.

Econometrics maintains significant attributes that make it an analytical methodology. This field possesses powerful mathematical tools that allow it to formulate economic hypotheses without rigidly confining its boundaries to ceteris paribus assumptions. Furthermore, the equally powerful statistical tools of Econometrics enable us to confront such hypotheses with facts meaningfully. However, even though we use mathematical symbols within our processes of economic analysis, the analysis becomes, in Tinbergen’s words, “more abstract, more theoretical, or more useless. Quite precisely, the opposite appears true.”

Nevertheless, Econometricians continue to make mistakes. Though remaining believable sometimes, mathematical symbols do not guarantee Econometrics against hidden and contradictory assumptions. Furthermore, this method does not protect an analyst against poor judgment or stupidity. As Tinbergen notes, “Econometrics remains no better than the econometrician pursuing it!” However, such a belief does not impugn the analytical technique itself.

I (Dr. Sase) am working on retranslating Tinbergen’s text, which was revised and enlarged for the English edition. In addition to the gratis use afforded to English-reading/speaking students of Economics and professionals in the field of Law, we can rely upon recent references included within the Dutch-language edition.

The book explains the relationship of Econometrics to Economics and Statistics while outlining the process of formulating economic hypotheses mathematically and subjecting them to a statistical test. Tinbergen explains the methodology of obtaining the various component equations of the system, be they psychic, technical, or business. Furthermore, it describes the process of setting up an economic model of the system. Finally, the book illustrates the use of Econometric methods for purposes related to policy.

The beginning student needs more knowledge of Mathematics and Statistics. With careful study, s/he will become involved in some of the most exciting and vital aspects of Economic Theory and Policy.

This month, we explored Part One of Tinbergen’s work in our column. Now, we include an overview of the topics for the next three installments.

Part II. The Working Methods of Econometrics:

Mathematical Formulation


• The function of Mathematical Economics; general remarks

   - 5 Which variables should be included in the relation?
   - 6 The mathematical form of the relation
   - 7 How the time factor appears in the relation
   - 8 Connection with other relations
   - 9 Supply equation and price-fixation equation
   - 10 Macroeconomic investigations
   - 11 The description of complete systems
   - 12 The movements of complete systems
   - 13 Stable and unstable equilibria: the purpose of economic policy

Part III. Statistical Testing


   - 14 Statistical testing; measuring phenomena
   - 15 Determining the components of time series; general remarks
   - 16 More refined methods; the trend
   - 17 Determining and eliminating the random components
   - 18 Determining the seasonal fluctuations and the-   business-        
   - 19 Simple correlation
   - 20 Possibilities of application in the economic field
   - 21 Multiple correlation
   - 22 Evaluating the uncertainty of the results
   - 23 Simultaneous equations
   - 24 The use of regression analysis in Econometrics
 
Part III. Results of Econometric Research

The Psychic Reactions


   - 25 Contents and subdivision of this chapter
   - 26 Psychic reaction relations; Engel curves
   - 27 The “propensity to consume” and the “multiplier”
   - 28 Demand curves; agricultural products        
   - 29 Demand curves; services and industrial products
   - 30 The demand function for all goods taken together
   - 31 Dynamic-demand functions
   - 32 The foundations of demand curves; indifference surfaces
   - 33 Cost curves for separate industrial enterprises-     

Microeconomic Cost-Curves


   - 34 The production function (macroeconomic cost curves)
   - 35 Technical developments

Reactions of Business Life


   - 36 Supply of products
   - 37 The demand for investment goods
   - 38 Substitution elasticities
  - 39 Reaction relations in the financial sphere

The Functioning of Economic Systems


   - 40 Separate markets (Echo Principle, Hog Cycle, Building Cycle)
   - 41 The General Business-Cycle Movement            
   - 42 Comparative-Static Systems
   - 43 Concluding remarks

Part IV. Economic Policy


The Use of Econometric Research for Economic Policy (An Example)
   - 44 Object and summary of this chapter
   - 45 Description of the model and its alternatives
   - 46 Choice of variables; boundary conditions
   - 47 Directives and Instruments; the strategy of economic policy
   - 48 Isolated wage policy; consequences of the double function of wages
   - 49 Isolated price-policy
   - 50 Devaluation
   - 51 Combined wage, price, and tax policy; the “optimum” solution
   - 52 A closer examination of tax and subsidy policy
   - 53 The influence of wages upon employment under various site conditions
   - 54 Summary:  is it possible to translate our analysis into verbal deductions?

A. The Use of Correlation Analysis in Economic Research

   - 55. Introductory
   - 56. Multiple correlation-analysis
   - 57. Determination of uncertainty in results
   - 58. Simultaneous relations
   - 59. Some further remarks on the reduced-form-method
   - 60. General remarks on the application of the correlation-method
   - 61. Some successful examples
   - 62. Conclusions of political and scientific importance
 
B. Statistical Evidence on the Acceleration Principle

   - 63. Theoretical introduction
   - 64. Statistical verification

C. Long-Term Foreign Trade Elasticities

   - 65. Importance of long-term elasticities of imports and exports
   - 66. Long-term vs. short-term elasticities
   - 67. Measurement from long-time series  
   - 68. Measurements from cross-section studies
   - 69. Concluding remarks
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Dr. John F. Sase teaches Economics at Wayne State University and has practiced Forensic and Investigative Economics for twenty years. He earned a combined M.A. in Economics and an MBA at the University of Detroit, followed by a Ph.D. in Economics from Wayne State University. He is a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (www.saseassociates.com).

Gerard J. Senick is a freelance writer, editor, and musician. He earned his degree in English at the University of Detroit and was a supervisory editor at Gale Research Company (now Cengage) for over twenty years. Currently, he edits books for publication (www.senick-editing.com).

Julie G. Sase is a copyeditor, parent coach, and empath. She earned her degree in English at Marygrove College and her graduate certificate in Parent Coaching from Seattle Pacific University. Ms. Sase coaches clients, writes articles, and edits copy (royaloakparentcoaching.com).

COUNSELOR’S CORNER: Look for the presence of love each day

April 16 ,2024

Everyone wants to feel loved. The quickest way to experience love to is give love to others. Kind words and actions bring a person into experiencing love in each moment. The other day I was looking for a clothing gift for one of my granddaughters. I asked a woman in the store, who was shopping also, if she knew where sweatshirts for women might be. She was so helpful and helped me find these articles of clothing even after I got lost.
:   Everyone wants to feel loved. The quickest way to experience love to is give love to others. Kind words and actions bring a person into experiencing love in each moment. The other day I was looking for a clothing gift for one of my granddaughters. I asked a woman in the store, who was shopping also, if she knew where sweatshirts for women might be. She was so helpful and helped me find these articles of clothing even after I got lost. When people are kind to me in stores, I get tears in my eyes because I am experiencing such kindness and love. I thanked her with tears in my eyes. It is like I have been become so much more grateful and appreciative for the kindness that becomes present when other people help me.

When I am kind and grateful, I notice kindness and helpfulness in so many different situations. It also helps me to look for love and goodness everywhere. And when I look for this, I experience life as filled with kindness and goodness.

When I look for love and kind actions, I begin to notice this everywhere. I open doors for others. Others open doors for me. I smile at people. Other people smile at me. Love is a gift that is always present. Butto sees this gift of Love coming toward me, I must look for it with loving words and loving actions. When I do this, I start seeing Love everywhere. The practice of kindness in actions and words has such a positive and loving effect on people.

Life is very simple: Be loving toward everyone and stay in the present moment with loving words and loving actions. This attitude brings such internal freedom. A gentle smile, a kind thank you, a complimentary word to a waiter or a waitress: all of this sends out a positive energy of love. When I look for different ways to affirm people, I pour more love into the world.

Love makes life very simple and uncomplicated. When I am loving, I create a loving bond between others and myself. Every moment can become a loving and simple and tense-free moment. It is so amazing how love and kindness in words and actions can take away tension in us and other people.

 Today look for love and goodness in everyone and everywhere. When you look for LOVE, you will find it all around you.

Life can be painful when we stop looking for LOVE. Life becomes uplifting and joyful when I keep looking for love and when I keep pouring out love to others. When I keep things simple and stay in this present moment, I allow my better self to surface and send out positive and loving energy into people. And then everyone starts feeling better. What a blessing to others. What a blessing to ourself. Love does work. Be grateful. Stay simple. Always be loving and kind. And you will discover such inner peace and joy in each moment.
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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage & family therapist and limited licensed psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Michigan. Cavaiani is associate editor and contributing writer for Human Development Magazine. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his website is FredsCounselorsCorner.com.

LEGAL PEOPLE

April 16 ,2024

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP has welcomed John A. MacKenzie as partner.
A litigator, MacKenzie concentrates his practice on commercial litigation and real estate matters. His litigation practice focuses on high stakes “bet the company” cases, business torts, shareholder disputes, contract disputes, supplier disputes and employment claims.
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Warner Norcross + Judd LLP has welcomed John A. MacKenzie as partner.

A litigator, MacKenzie concentrates his practice on commercial litigation and real estate matters. His litigation practice focuses on high stakes “bet the company” cases, business torts, shareholder disputes, contract disputes, supplier disputes and employment claims. MacKenzie’s real estate practice brings a understanding of riparian rights and water laws, along with experience in residential and commercial transactions, land use and zoning challenges. He is based in the firm’s Macomb County office.

MacKenzie comes to Warner after seven years with Maddin, Hauser, Roth, & Heller in Southfield, where he was a shareholder in the firm’s litigation and dispute resolution practice. He previously worked with Kopka Pinkus Dolin in Farmington Hills and served as corporate counsel for Atain Specialty Insurance Company, where he handled property and casualty insurance matters. While in law school, MacKenzie clerked for Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Richard Caretti and as a legal clerk for The City of Highland Park.

MacKenzie received his bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and his law degree from Cooley Law School.

MacKenzie is a board member for All Ways Cares Services Inc. and Anchor Bay Community Foundation. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, Macomb County Bar Association, and Oakland County Bar Association. MacKenzie has been frequently recognized for his work, including by Best Lawyers® “Ones to Watch,” Michigan Lawyers Weekly “Up & Coming Lawyers” and as a Michigan Super Lawyers “Rising Star.”

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The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office is proud to announce the nomination of Sian Hengeveld, chief of trials and circuit court, for the ATHENA Award.  The ATHENA Award Program celebrates the potential of all women as valued members and leaders of the community, recognizing those who strive toward the highest levels of professional accomplishments and who devote time and energy to improving the quality of life for others.

As the chief of trials and circuit court, Hengeveld oversees approximately 70 assistant prosecutors and their dockets and trials, ensuring the effective administration of justice while upholding the highest ethical standards.  Her experience includes trying numerous felony cases, including those involving criminal sexual conduct, child abuse, abusive head trauma, child homicide and human trafficking.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Hengeveld is committed to serving her community.  She has been a member of the Macomb County Lethality Team with Turning Point since 2023, advocating for victims of domestic violence and promoting initiatives to prevent intimate partner violence.  Hengeveld also serves as a presenter for the Forensic Nursing Program at Oakland University, educating future healthcare professionals on the legal aspects of forensic nursing.  Furthermore, she has been conducting countywide police department trainings since 2009, contributing to enhanced public safety measures across the region.

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Honigman
is pleased to announce that I.W. Winsten has been inducted into the Wayne Law Wall of Fame. This recognition is the highest honor presented by Wayne State University Law School and celebrates Winsten’s professional success, positive influence on Wayne Law, and his character and integrity.

Established in 2016, the Wayne Law Alumni Wall of Fame Award acknowledges graduates, former faculty, and staff of Wayne State University Law School who have distinguished themselves in their fields of work, contributed significantly to the community or have had a significant impact on the law school.

Winsten’s track record includes numerous trial victories and a reputation for excellence in motion practice and settlement negotiations. His experience spans a wide array of matters, from disputes involving the sale of businesses and shareholder disagreements to real estate development and constitutional issues. He is also sought after for teaching trial skills to fellow legal professionals.

In addition to his legal career, Winsten serves as an adjunct professor at Wayne Law.

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Taft
Detroit partner Jon Sriro spoke at the Michigan Technology Leaders Summit on April 11. He served on the executive panel “Cyber-Security: Best Practices for Post Hack.” The conference covered the latest insights in information technology and provided the opportunity for IT professionals to network and exchange ideas. One hundred percent of the profits from the summit will be donated back to the community via charitable initiatives by SIM Detroit and the Michigan Council of Women in Technology.

Sriro represents companies in technology transactions and data privacy and data security matters. He has experience counseling clients on a range of privacy, cybersecurity, and information management issues in the context of vendor/vendee agreements, data and data security issues related to mergers and acquisitions, compliance, business strategy, technology transactions, litigation, incident response preparation, insurance, data breach/incident, and regulatory compliance issues.

Sriro is a Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

COMMENTARY: Attacks on judges and the courts

April 16 ,2024

Our courts and judges are under attack. Serious threats against judges have doubled since 2019, with 457 serious threats targeting federal judges across the country in 2023. National leaders and private citizens are making false statements and scurrilous accusations against judges for partisan, personal gain. These attacks are no idle matter.  Often, they involve threats of physical harm or death — not only to the judges, but also to their families and staff.
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By Mary Smith

Our courts and judges are under attack. Serious threats against judges have doubled since 2019, with 457 serious threats targeting federal judges across the country in 2023. National leaders and private citizens are making false statements and scurrilous accusations against judges for partisan, personal gain. These attacks are no idle matter.  Often, they involve threats of physical harm or death — not only to the judges, but also to their families and staff.

Threats against the very individuals we have appointed or elected to administer our judicial system and the rule of law are not only wrong, they also threaten the very fabric of our democracy — judicial independence and the rule of law. All lawyers are bound by ethical rules based on the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules prohibit lawyers from making false statements about the qualifications or integrity of a judge. Based on these rules, and to maintain the fair and independent administration of justice, lawyers also are encouraged to defend judges and courts that are unjustly criticized.

In 2018 the ABA Standing Committee on the American Judicial System issued a call to action — a report titled “Rapid Response to Fake News, Misleading Statements and Unjust Criticism of the Judiciary” — urging lawyers to stand up and correct the public record when courts are unfairly attacked. The report states:

“Bar associations have a special responsibility to ensure that the public holds the judiciary in the highest esteem. Judges are, and should be, highly respected leaders of our legal system ... Inaccurate, unjustified, and simply false criticisms of judges should be answered promptly and fully. The bar associations must take a leading role in responding to such criticisms.”

I urge all members of the American Bar Association as well as other bar association leaders and lawyers nationwide to rededicate themselves to preserving our nation’s impartial system of justice. Every one of us must stand up for our judges and their staffs and engage in the civic education needed to help the public understand how our courts work, the crucial role of independent judges in a functioning democracy and why their integrity must be defended and their safety ensured.

As lawyers, it is also incumbent on us to teach our fellow Americans how to take appropriate actions should they disagree with court opinions. For example, people involved in litigation who are unhappy with a court’s decision can file an appeal to a higher court for review by a different impartial decision maker. Members of the public who are dissatisfied with a court’s decision can organize a community meeting, write to newspapers and websites, petition Congress or their state legislature to change laws, support a citizens’ initiative or undertake the simple act of voting.

These are extraordinary times. As lawyers, we have a unique duty to lead our nation in the protection of our judges, the rule of law and American democracy. The time has come to rededicate ourselves to our obligations.
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Mary Smith is president of the American Bar Association and is the first Native American woman in this role. She is an independent board member and former CEO of a $6 billion national healthcare organization, the Indian Health Service. She currently serves on the board of PTC Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: PTCT), a global biopharmaceutical company and on the board of HAI Group, a leading member-owned insurance company for the affordable housing industry. She is also vice chair of the VENG Group, a national consulting firm.

COMMENTARY: The time for change is now

April 16 ,2024

It has been more than 30 years since the Michigan legislature imposed “caps” on medical malpractice cases. Since that time there have been only a few challenges to the law. In fact, the paucity of challenges is rather curious, especially given the rather flimsy constitutional grounds on which the law sits. Putting aside the legal merit of limiting recovery on damages, from a public policy perspective, it just doesn’t make sense.
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By A. Vince Colella

It has been more than 30 years since the Michigan legislature imposed “caps” on medical malpractice cases. Since that time there have been only a few challenges to the law. In fact, the paucity of challenges is rather curious, especially given the rather flimsy constitutional grounds on which the law sits. Putting aside the legal merit of limiting recovery on damages, from a public policy perspective, it just doesn’t make sense. In the late 1980s early 1990s, when states were adopting laws capping damages on mistakes made by doctors and hospitals, studies over the following decades suggested that the industry-proclaimed “health crisis” was not rooted in reality and was likely the product of fear mongering to lower insurance premiums for health care professionals and limit exposure to legitimate claims of injury and death related to sub-standard health care.

For example, one study from the Center for Justice Democracy at New York Law School found “indisputable” evidence that “caps” on damages in medical malpractice cases (euphemistically referred to as “tort-reform”) produced more medical errors and higher health care costs. Perhaps more importantly, the study determined that the adoption of damage caps did not increase the number of physicians, shattering the myth that doctors were unable to enter the practice of medicine due to the high cost of insurance and exposure to significant jury verdicts.

Still, notwithstanding data to the contrary regarding them, Michigan joined a number of other states in the passing of reform placing caps on damages. Following the legislative enactment, medical malpractice cases began to percolate through the appellate system centered on the constitutionality of the new law. In Zdrojewski v Murphy, the first appellate panel to address the issue — in an unpublished opinion — the court embraced the propaganda of a “perceived crises in the health care system” and found the public policy for “reducing medical malpractice liability” (the purported impetus behind the law) was sufficient to pass constitutional muster.

While the special interest of protecting doctors and their insurance carriers from having to be held fully accountable for medical errors influenced one panel of judges, the Court of Appeals quickly reversed course. In Wiley v Henry Ford Cottage (a published opinion) the court was outwardly critical of its predecessor opinion and re-emphasized Michigan’s Constitutional guarantee to a trial by jury did not end at determining liability but extended to the determination of damages. The Wiley court aptly pointed out that the fatal flaw in the Zdrojewski opinion was that the existence of a medical malpractice claim is not a creature of the legislation, therefore not subject to legislative abolishment. In other words, “while the Legislature may take away what it has given, it may not take away what the Constitution has given.” The fundamental unfairness of the caps is simple: arbitrarily reducing the amount of damages awarded by a jury handicaps its ability to provide full justice.

Unfortunately, the Wiley decision did not stand. Under the steady hand of a Michigan Supreme Court regime criticized for wreaking havoc on the rights of personal injury victims, Justice Clifford Taylor penned an opinion that would lead to three decades of discounted justice. Interestingly, the case that cemented the constitutionality of medical malpractice caps did not involve medical malpractice! In Philips v Mirac, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether a statutory damage cap on lessors of automobiles, i.e., rental cars, for injury caused by the negligent operation of the vehicle, was constitutional. In Phillips, the Supreme Court demonstrated its keen ability to perform the legal gymnastics of a proper constitutional analysis while pivoting toward a retrofitted opinion that protected the economic interests of the insurance industry. In finding caps to be constitutional, the court provided statutory examples of limitations on recovery. Of course, none of the anecdotal illustrations involved pure common law causes of action independent of statutory origin. Conspicuously absent from Justice Taylor’s opinion in Phillips is any reference, analysis, dissection or even mention of the Wiley decision. Perhaps in her dissent, Justice Elizabeth Weaver said it best: “No industry should be allowed to shift its burden of responsibility and accountability to the shoulders of the severely injured merely because it claims to be in crisis.”

The time is now.

Caps on damages have the ulterior consequence of de-incentivizing doctors to behave carefully. Lowering the risk of malpractice lawsuits weakens the deterrent factor necessary to maintain responsible care, judgement and decision making of medical professionals. A jury verdict is not an “award” or “compensation,” these are terms associated with things we achieve or earn. Rather, a verdict is a monetary measurement of human suffering. The idea that caps lower insurance premium costs, increases the number of health professionals and creates greater access to health care has been debunked. The only true consequence of placing a cap on recovery for those who have had the unfortunate experience of unimaginable suffering due to mistakes made by doctors and hospitals is cheating victims of their right to fully recover what has been lost or destroyed.
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A. Vince Colella is a co-founder of personal injury and civil rights law firm Moss & Colella.

COMMENTARY: All is quiet on golf and tennis fronts - for some strange reasons

April 16 ,2024

Now, I have written about some very controversial issues, i.e. Trump, Ukraine, Israel-Hamas, the environment and many other topics.
Today, I am taking on an issue I was warned not to tackle. My family and friends repeatedly advised me to leave it alone. But being a masochist, I can no longer resist; it has bothered me for years.
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By Berl Falbaum

Now, I have written about some very controversial issues, i.e. Trump, Ukraine, Israel-Hamas, the environment and many other topics.

Today, I am taking on an issue I was warned not to tackle. My family and friends repeatedly advised me to leave it alone. But being a masochist, I can no longer resist; it has bothered me for years.

So here goes: Why do spectators at golf and tennis matches have to be silent? (There, I did it and I think I hear the outcry already). Let’s begin by applying the “quiet” rule to some other sports.

Scene 1: A Detroit Tiger batter has finished scratching and adjusting his gloves/helmet when an announcement on the public address system commands fans to “be quiet please.”

Some 45,000 fans comply.

Scene 2: A Detroit Piston is at the free throw line. A similar announcement orders fans to take their seats, not move a muscle, while the basketball player shoots.

Scene 3: The Detroit Lions quarterback, ready to take the hike, is bothered by a fan slurping a beer in the upper deck. He stops, points to the stands and the announcer, whose voice reflects annoyance, chastises the offending fan to drink quietly.

None of the above is possible, you say? Yup, you’re right; very true. So…

Why is golf and tennis different? What is it about these games that require fans to not only hold their breath, but also are ousted from stadiums and golf courses if they can’t control the sniffles?

The golfing great Tiger Woods became angry when he heard camera shutters click, and at a Wimbledon classic, one player complained that she was bothered by “groans” after she missed a shot. She said a sports psychotherapist was treating her for this mental/psychological dilemma. (I did not make that up; I could never have thought of that.)

In the in-depth interviews I conducted, I was told, “You just don’t understand.” Which, of course, is true. They explained: it’s a matter of concentration.

Apparently, it takes more concentration to hit a golf ball sitting motionless on a tee, waiting to be whacked than hit a curving, twisting 95-mile an hour pitch from just 60.5 feet away.
A basketball player doesn’t need to concentrate shooting a free throw while fans engage in hilarious antics to force him to miss. Some of the signs and photos can’t be reported in a family newspaper. When the player does miss, given the raciness of the photos, a coach ought to be a little forgiving.

Question: Who needs more time to think: A golfer contemplating a 12-inch putt or a quarterback looking at six hulking, 300-pound salivating linemen who are planning to claw their way through the defensive line to crush every bone in his body.

The internet provides many reasons (all are really about concentration), one arguing that a tennis player needs to hear the ball hit the opponent’s racket. Apparently, that sound provides vital info for the return.

If sound — any sound — is so disruptive, then the first people who should be ushered out are players who grunt, among them the great Serena Williams. Those grunts are annoying, I confess, to me watching on TV. Maybe that’s her secret to winning.

We might also observe golfers don’t grunt even when they hit a drive for some 300 yards. But they do stand like statues on the green when opponents putt. Professional courtesy.

Concentration? What about doing backward somersaults on a beam just four inches wide and 4.1 feet off the ground? You think that might need a little concentration?

No, dear tennis players and golfers, concentration doesn’t do it. Citing that as the reason is nothing but sports elitism.

Then, what is the reason? Answer: Tradition. These were rich people’s sports played at country clubs that required respectable behavior and appropriate manners. People at these clubs didn’t shout, let alone cuss, but behaved “properly.” One professional tennis player, discussing this issue on the web, called his colleagues “dilettantes”.

Moreover, tennis was played before royalty and that required acceptable protocol. It still is at Wimbledon where members of the royalty frequently attend matches. No one ever witnessed a king, queen, prince or princess, chugging a beer, and shouting, “Helluva shot, old chum.”

Admittedly, I never met the late Queen Elizabeth but from what I have read about her, I think she would have enjoyed a more raucous scene. I know Prince Harry would.

(If it’s not too much to take on at the same time, we might also change the scoring system in tennis. What the hell is the point of 15, 30, 40 love? The numbers don’t make sense and what is meant by “love?” Yes, I read all the reasons for the scoring, but for the “love” of me, none makes any sense. How about 1, 2, 3 and when the player reaches 4, he/she wins the game.)

We have witnessed several revolutions in the last half-century. We have made progress in civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and in other sectors of society.

It’s time to fight for “fan rights” at tennis matches and on golf courses. With spring upon us, let’s make 2024 the year we begin to cheer and boo at these sporting events. I will start it if you promise to post bail.

We might just discover it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference — and that it is a lot more fun.

And the player who is upset by groans will save a lot of money on therapy.
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Berl Falbaum is a veteran journalist and author of 12 books.