Once you’re familiar with the MCAT CARS section, take this quiz to test your readiness.
Refer to the following text for Questions 1-3:
In recent years, extensive media attention has been given to enormous damages awarded in the U.S. civil litigation tort system. In 1996, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck was awarded 2.7 million dollars in punitive damages from McDonald’s after sustaining third degree burns from spilled coffee. The system awarded Michael Gore nearly four million dollars in 1994 after BMW sold him a car that had been repainted and sold as new.
Awards such as these spurred businesses, insurance companies and lobbyists to claim an “explosion” of legal liability. In response, many legislators call for tort system reform that includes limiting the amount of damages, controlling legal fees, and redefining the concept of “fault” administered by the judges. Jury verdicts that appear, on superficial inquiry, to be blatantly excessive seem to challenge our system of compensation. Some claim that juries find negligence in order to provide compensation for victims who have large medical bills and lost wages, at the expense of “deep pock-et” defendants.
In his seminal article in the Maryland Law Journal, “Real World Torts: An Antidote to Anecdote,” Marc Galanter ex-amines the issue. As the title suggests, in order to investigate the tort system, Galanter used empirical data to examine whether, on the whole, these “anecdotes” truly represent how the system compensates injured parties.
Galanter found that all tort claims form a dispute pyramid charting the progress from an injury to a jury verdict. Injuries form the broad base of the pyramid. On the next level, approximately 8% of injuries become grievances (events for which an injury was noticed). 85% of grievances become claims (where the injured brings the problem to the alleged wrongdoer). 23.5% of claims become disputes (having failed to reach an informal agreement). Next, 58% of plaintiffs with claims contact a lawyer, and 32.8% of these result in a court filing. Of all court filings, only 7% result in a verdict, and only 34.7% of these are decided in favor of the plaintiff. This means that an injured person gets a jury verdict in his favor only 0.007% of the time.
For example, medical malpractice results in approximately 100,000 deaths a year. At the tip of Galanter’s pyramid only 21 of the 100,000 deaths will result in a verdict. Finally, only 7 people will receive damage awards from a jury.
Galanter concludes that the system is hardly unbalanced in favor of plaintiffs. The proposed tort reform would actually increase insurance company profitability and reduce payments to the most seriously injured tort victims. Punitive damage awards are extremely rare, only applied in the most egregious cases, and always subject to judicial review. The awards discourage businesses from releasing harmful products into the stream of commerce.
Moreover, according to Galanter, court filings in the law division of the circuit court of Cook County have actually declined during the period from 1980 to 1994. His observations are consistent with a 1999 study by the National Center for State Courts, which found that tort filings have decreased by 9% since 1986. By looking at existing empirical data instead of isolated, inflammatory cases, legislators will be able to do a better job of deciding if the system is in need of reform and, if so, what type of reform is appropriate.
A: The best description of the situation faced by a potential tort plaintiff is found in paragraph 4: Galanter’s pyramid findings demonstrated that only a tiny number of tort claims actually result in decisions in favor of the plaintiff. The main point is that there must be a tiny number of success stories from a much larger pool of in-dividuals. This matches to choice (A). In each of the other cases, close to 100% success would be expected (or at least a much higher percentage than the number of young basket-ball prospects who make it to the NBA).
C: This is a Strengthen–Weaken (Beyond the Text) question, so let’s start by determining the conclusion implied by paragraph 4. The main point of Galanter’s argument stems from the assumption that analyzing all of the empirical data will give the fullest picture and not allow anecdotal bias. If it was possible that the data Galanter used was false or incomplete for some reason, this would seriously weak-en his argument overall. Choice (C) details exactly that prediction; if Galanter’s study was only specific to product liability, then it can’t be generalized to other similar cases or other tort suits. Choice (A) reflects on the dates given in the passage—Galanter’s study seems to investigate data until 1994. As long as Galanter’s study was published after this point, there is no negative effect on his argument, eliminating this answer. The pattern of divorce cases, as described in choice (B), has no effect on the argument because there is no reason to believe that divorce would (or wouldn’t) follow the same patterns as tort cases. Finally, whether or not physicians have malpractice insurance does not appear to be related to the number of cases brought to court or decided in favor of the plaintiff, so choice (D) would also have no effect on Galanter’s argument.
C: This Function question should direct use to our Outline. Paragraph 1 mentions extreme examples the tort system awards. Even without rereading, predict that Liebeck must be one of those very high monetary awards that caused lob-byists to be so aggressive in fighting against the tort system in general and call for reform. This matches to choice (C). Choice (A) is not possible simply because the author does not overtly make any claims. Our author is very neutral and simply sets the facts in front of us to make our own decisions. Choice (B) Distorts the author’s mention of jury verdicts that appear, on superficial inquiry, to be blatantly exces-sive—the use of the phrase on superficial inquiry implies that the author may not agree that these damages actually are excessive. Finally, choice (D) is vague enough that it could sound plausible, but there is no later argument or conclusion that requires Liebeck’s award specifically. Generally, there isn’t any conclusion about coffee, McDonalds, burns, or the elderly, that would depend on this example either.
Refer to the following text for Questions 4-5:
A balance of power arises when a group of neighboring countries enters a state of economic and military equilibrium. In a balance of power system, a nation-state cannot violate the independence or the essential rights of another without incurring reprisals from neighboring states acting to restore balance. Conflict ought to be avoided, but may be necessary when a potential hegemon takes aggressive action. This is because peace or the safety of an individual nation is less important in balance of power than preserving equilibrium in the system. Diplomacy and trade in a balance of power is thus a continuum of action and reaction, rather than a series of attempts at independent policy-making.
What conditions are necessary for a balance of power to occur? First, states must be aligned in a “state system.” The states involved must be independent, close in proximity (often possessing shared borders), and near equals in power. When one state far outstrips its close neighbors in power, it dictates economic and military policy for the region. When neighbor states are commensurate, however, interaction on issues of shared concern occurs on a level playing field of policy-making.
A second factor in the formation of a balance of power is the framework of the system itself. To maintain an effective balance of power, a system must include a minimum of three states. A true equilibrium cannot exist between two states because one state inevitably gains ascendancy over the other. A balance of power is also generally characterized by a common ground of culture in the state system. A group of states is more likely to align in a cooperative manner if constituent states perceive a degree of cultural similarity with their neighbors. Added to this, the mechanism of diplomacy, skilled diplomats and economic alliance structures, must be in place for a balance of power to thrive. If this framework exists, then the system will be sufficiently flexible to survive short-lived economic fluctuations and military aggression.
Inherent in this need for a framework is the third precondition for the evolution of a balance of power: rational estimation. Countries involved in a balance of power must have a rational means of estimating the power of individual and combined states within the system. The flow of economic information between countries is crucial for an economic equilibrium to persist; a nation’s economic planning should consider the dynamics of the entire state system in addition to its own agriculture and industry. A similar diffusion of information must occur on national security issues. This means that the stability of a state system depends on the development of sophisticated intelligence agencies for estimating the military capability and activity of other states.
The importance of military intelligence is perhaps best illustrated on a smaller scale. Suppose that your neighbor has stolen your lawnmower and you are considering taking retribution by picking a fight with him. For your survival and for the continued survival of the balance of power in your neighborhood, you must first be aware of all relevant personal defense issues. In particular, it is critical that you find out whether your neighbor possesses a gun and whether they might use it under such circumstances. Without the gathering of such information, the balance of power in the neighborhood cannot be maintained.
B: The word assumption immediately lets us know this is an Inference question of the Assumption subtype. Here, we want to identify an assumption the author makes while form-ing the analogy in paragraph five. As discussed in Chapter 6 of MCAT CARS Review, analogical reasoning relies on two pieces of evidence: that the two entities (neighbors, N, and international balances of power, I) share similar corresponding characteristics (N1 and I1, N2 and I2, an so on), and that one of the entities has an additional characteristic (Nx)—from this, the conclusion is drawn that the other entity also has that characteristic (Ix). This might sound like a bunch of jargon, but it provides a quick way to answer this question: one assumption in an analogy is always that the two entities are similar enough to be compared in this way. Therefore, we should look for an answer that, were it not to be true, would mean that neighbors and states are actually not so similar. Choice (B) matches this assumption—if power relations between neighbors were not dependent on similar factors to those between neighbor states, then the comparison made in the last paragraph would make no sense. Choice (A) is a Distortion; while it makes sense that both neighbors and states would aim to avoid conflict whenever possible, the word must makes this answer too Extreme. Even if neighbors occasionally quarreled, and neighbor states occasionally fought, the analogy would still hold. In fact, the analogy even suggests that a conflict may occur over the lawnmower. Choice (C) is also too Extreme; while the author suggests that cultural similarity facilitates cooperation, there is no suggestion that this similarity is absolutely required for peaceful coexistence. Finally, choice (D) is Out of Scope. The author seems to suggest that force may be needed to maintain a balance of power, but does not make any reference to what is justifiable. Note the use of always also makes this answer choice Extreme.
D: In this Detail question, we need to pick the choice that matches the explanation for this claim in the passage. The author clarifies the phrase common ground of culture by pointing out that states with similar culture are more likely to align in cooperative manner. This is almost identical to choice (D). Choice (A) is a Faulty Use of Detail; while mechanisms of diplomacy are needed for balance of pow-er according to the author, they are a separate third factor needed mentioned in this paragraph (in addition to having at least three states and common culture) and are not part of the common ground of culture described. Choice (B) is Out of Scope because the passage does not have any discussion of cultural differences causing military conflict—it just states that cultural similarities foster cooperative behavior. Choice (C) is similarly out of scope because the author does not discuss the influence of a hegemon on the culture of surrounding states.