Science And Law Team Up On Legal Reform Proposal

December 17, 1998

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University physicist and a political science professor have proposed an new way to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits that are choking the court system.

In the American judicial system, plaintiffs and defendants almost always pay their own expenses, no matter which side wins the case. By contrast, most other countries operate under a variant of the "British rule," where the losing party pays the legal fees of the winning party.

"This 'cost-shifting' is a major factor in reducing the per capita litigation costs in Europe compared with the United States," says Ephraim Fischbach, professor of physics at Purdue. "But both systems have major drawbacks. While the American system does little to curb frivolous lawsuits, the British system works at a disadvantage to parties with fewer resources."

Fischbach and William McLauchlan, associate professor of political science, have come up with a new approach called reverse cost-shifting. The basic idea is that the losing party in a civil case pays the court a fine that is a multiple of its own expenses.

"The novel feature of reverse cost-shifting is that although it imposes a financial penalty on the losing party, the amount of the penalty is completely under control of the losing party," Fischbach says. "If you've got a frivolous case with little chance of winning, you'll think twice about initiating that case if you know you'll have to pay a penalty."

Fischbach and McLauchlan's proposal appears in the fall issue of the John Marshall Law Review, Vol. 32, issue No. 1.

Fischbach relied on mathematical equations and probability -- tools he normally reserves for his physics research -- to show the benefits of the reverse cost-shifting plan. For example, the proposal assumes that the probability of winning a case depends on the amount of money you spend.

While the court of opinion is still out on the idea, Fischbach and McLauchlan have gotten some positive feedback from judges, attorneys and the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.

McLauchlan says: "This system effectively tilts the legal playing field in favor of the party with the more meritorious case, regardless of whether that party is big or small, plaintiff or defendant. Also, because the penalty is paid directly to the court, parties who actually use the court system would be paying for it, reducing the tax burden on the general public."
CONTACTS: Fischbach, 765-494-5506; e-mail,; McLauchlan, 765-494-4171; e-mail,

Purdue University

Related Mathematical Equations Articles from Brightsurf:

A new mathematical front to understand species coexistence
In an effort to understand how different species coexist, researchers develop a mathematical model that establishes interactions in co-colonization as the key.

How genetic variation gives rise to differences in mathematical ability
DNA variation in a gene called ROBO1 is associated with early anatomical differences in a brain region that plays a key role in quantity representation, potentially explaining how genetic variability might shape mathematical performance in children, according to a study published October 22nd in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Michael Skeide of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and colleagues.

Faster COVID-19 testing with simple algebraic equations
A mathematician from Cardiff University has developed a new method for processing large volumes of COVID-19 tests which he believes could lead to significantly more tests being performed at once and results being returned much quicker.

Mathematical modelling to prevent fistulas
It is better to invest in measures that make it easier for women to visit a doctor during pregnancy than measures to repair birth injuries.

New mathematical tool can select the best sensors for the job
In the 2019 Boeing 737 Max crash, the recovered black box from the aftermath hinted that a failed pressure sensor may have caused the ill-fated aircraft to nose dive.

The mathematical values of Linear A fraction signs
A recent study by a team based at the University of Bologna, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, has shed new light on the Minoan system of fractions, one of the outstanding enigmas tied to the ancient writing of numbers.

The mathematical magic of bending grids
A mathematical discovery opens up new possibilities for architecture and design: For any desired curved surface a flat grid of straight bars can be calculated that can be folded out to the desired curved structure.

An ant-inspired approach to mathematical sampling
In a paper published by the Royal Society, a team of Bristol researchers observed the exploratory behaviour of ants to inform the development of a more efficient mathematical sampling technique.

Hidden symmetry found in chemical kinetic equations
Rice University researchers have discovered a hidden symmetry in the chemical kinetic equations scientists have long used to model and study many of the chemical processes essential for life.

New mathematical model can more effectively track epidemics
As COVID-19 spreads worldwide, leaders are relying on mathematical models to make public health and economic decisions.

Read More: Mathematical Equations News and Mathematical Equations Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to