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News
March 29, 2017

Strong Majority of U.S. Consumers Feel Litigation Will Impede Innovation and Emerging Technologies

When many of us hear the word, “innovation”, we think about medical breakthroughs or groundbreaking technologies that make our lives safer, easier, or more enjoyable.

Others hear that word, and they see dollar signs – not because of the promise these technologies hold, but rather due to their potential as sources of high-dollar litigation.

At a Silicon Valley event held today – Emerging Technologies and Torts of the Future – the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) and the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) will explore emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Autonomous Vehicles, and others, and discuss how harmful regulations and litigation can threaten innovation and negatively impact our economy.

The American Association for Justice (AAJ), the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ national lobbying group, recently signaled their intention to target emerging technologies with the release of their manifesto, “Driven to Safety: Robot Cars and the Future of Liability.”

In that document, the plaintiffs’ bar, using driverless automobiles as just one example, asserts that “the civil justice system is better placed than any other regulatory mechanism to ensure innovations develop in the safest manner possible.”

In other words, the trial lawyers want full reign to sue America’s most innovative companies.

How do American consumers feel about this? ILR conducted a national Google Consumer Survey to find out their U.S. consumer attitudes toward the issue of driverless automobiles and liability issues involving those vehicles.

Here is what we found:

  • A strong majority of U.S. consumers (82%) disagree with the notion that “lawsuits and lawyers are the best way to regulate emerging technologies, such as cars that operate without a driver.”
  • More than two-thirds of U.S. consumers (77%) believe lawsuits against emerging technologies, such as cars that operate without drivers, will impede innovation, with almost half (46%) saying it will “greatly impede” innovation.

It’s clear that American consumers sharply disagree with the plaintiffs’ bar assertion that emerging technologies are best regulated by costly lawsuits. They know that the most innovative companies are those that take big risks to invest considerable financial resources in testing, developing and fine-tuning new ideas.

Costly lawsuits increase the barrier to entry for these innovators by boosting the amount of risk and resources they must bear to make their new ideas a reality.

Of course, no innovator or manufacturer operates without accountability for the safety of consumers. They must comply with our country’s (and individual states’ and even local) vast regulatory regime.

As the U.S. continues this era of exciting innovation, we hope that policymakers heed the strong sentiments of American consumers, rather than the aggressive lobby of the plaintiffs’ bar that wants to threaten these emerging technologies by impeding innovation through needless and expensive litigation.

 

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