Monday, April 5, 2010

Interstate 60 Explains the Need for Tort Reform

Interstate 60 (a U.S. highway that doesn't exist, by the way) is a road trip/fantasy comedy that was written and directed by Bob Gale, who penned Back to the Future. The 2002 film stars James Marsden, the always excellent Gary Oldman, and Amy Smart. And even though it went straight to video, Interstate 60 has cameos by some high-profile actors such as Kurt Russell, Chris Cooper, Christopher Lloyd, and Michael J. Fox. By today's standards, it's almost family entertainment (despite its R rating), and is definitely worth renting. Scenes from the movie are also on YouTube.

As with episodic movies of this genre, the main character Neal Oliver (played by Mardsen) has various weird adventures and encounters quirky people on the road in his quest. The quest has to do with Amy Smart, and a package delivery, but that's another matter. In one sequence, he winds up in the town of Morlaw, "a law-abiding community." At the city limits, a police officer pulls Oliver over and serves him with a civil lawsuit alleging that he ran over a pet cat named "Snickers" in a hit-and-run three weeks previous in front of Morlaw's courthouse. But Oliver has never been in the town before.

It turns out that every adult citizen in Morlaw is a lawyer and everyone sues everyone else. As attorney Valerie McCabe (played by Deborah Odell) explains to Marsden's character, everyone who sets foot in the town gets sued on trumped-up charges, and "it doesn't matter if there's a cause. It's how we ensure that everyone makes a living in the profession."

Sound familiar?

Odell's character even says that thrives on  the challenges offer by her career in Morlaw because everyday brings a new way of interpreting the law..."an intellectual feast," a quote which Gale included the script from Judge Bork's ill-fated Senate Judiciary testimony. While Oliver is meeting with McCabe in her office, through the picture window you can see men in suits literally chasing after an ambulance in the street! McCabe even tells Oliver that the plaintiff in his case doesn't even have a cat because he's allergic!

The lawyers in Morlaw force their clients to do all the non-legal, service oriented jobs in the town because that's the only way they can afford their legal fees. And unwary travelers just passing through, like Neal Oliver, are locked up until their cases come to trial!

Anyway, with the intervention by the character played by Chris Cooper (sorry if this is a spoiler), the "liars/lawyers" as he puts it, get their comeuppance through a unique implementation of tort reform, and everything works out for the best.

There's also an amusing sequence where the Cooper character offers a panhandler holding a "will work for food" sign an apple if he will wash the windshield of Marsden's car.