This is a sidebar in the Suing Like Crazy article in the January 2000 Reader's Digest.

It's Not Just Alabama

A highly paid salesman claims he's unfairly fired from his job.  He sues, and gets $150 million in punitive damages from a jury in Alaska.  In California, a jury hits General Motors with a punitive damage award of $4.8 billion when the gas tank of one its cars catches on fire.  The car was rear-ended by a drunk driver going between 50 and 70 m.p.h.

Lawsuit abuses are not just an Alabama problem.  Everywhere contingency fees provide incentives for huge damage awards, while rear of litigation discourages research and innovation.  And lawyers shop around for rural courtrooms to bring class actions, with little link between these backwoods counties and the complaint except sympathy for the plaintiff.  But in the end, we all bear the costs - in higher prices and fewer goods and services.

- George Priest, Yale Law School