Tort Reform? Not For Dan

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Bonnie, Feb 21, 2005.

  1. Bonnie
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    Bonnie Senior Member

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    Tort 'Reform' Triumphs
    by DAN ZEGART

    [from the March 7, 2005 issue]

    Nothing could better illustrate the pending extinction of civil action as a tool for fighting corporate criminality than a measure that will effectively do away with many types of class-action lawsuits. With passage all but assured in the House following a lopsided 72-to-26 vote in the Senate on February 10, the Class Action Fairness Act was expected to be quickly signed by George W. Bush, who campaigned for it ardently. The bill is the first significant Congressional tort "reform" victory for the radical right and a catastrophe for workers and consumers. The GOP is hoping the almost total collapse of the Democrats on the Senate bill--eight Democrats co-sponsored it--means improved chances of passing a bill curbing asbestos suits and a reworked medical malpractice measure that caps damages for pain and suffering and drastically limits suits over dangerous drugs like Vioxx.

    Not satisfied with nibbling away at the welfare state, already the thinnest in the industrialized West, conservatives have spent more than twenty years demonizing lawyers and ridiculing victims in order to eliminate a uniquely American right, rooted in the Seventh Amendment, that allows juries to assess damages in civil courts for corporate misbehavior. In Europe and Japan, governments compensate victims; in this country, it is often done, haphazardly, by entrepreneur-lawyers. The same lawyers are more successful in another, quite accidental way: regulating and punishing companies that pollute, maim or cheat--a critical function at a time when government does less and less to force them to act responsibly. Fifteen state attorneys general recognized this when they called on the Senate to dump or amend the class-action bill.

    The bill, like the other anticipated tort "reforms," was produced by the same right-wing think tanks that gave us the proposed Social Security overhaul and Medicare privatization and was marketed by the US Chamber of Commerce, which along with a coalition of businesses has spent tens of millions of dollars on the effort. Much of that money has gone to support like-minded elected officials. In the 2004 election, for example, the Chamber helped spend millions in seven battleground states to pay for ads urging voters to support lawsuit restrictions endorsed by Bush and opposed by John Kerry [see Zegart, "The Right Wing's Drive for 'Tort Reform,'" October 25, 2004]. Such efforts are part of a strategy embraced by Bush guru Karl Rove to drain cash from tort lawyers, who overwhelmingly support Democrats.

    The class-action bill is premised on the need to end supposedly rampant litigation abuses in state courts, where, it is claimed, plaintiff-friendly juries and corrupt judges team up to award damage "jackpots" that drive up consumer prices. But numerous studies have shown no spike in tort filings, including class actions; reports by the American Tort Reform Association, tort reform's flagship group, could find data for only two judicial jurisdictions out of 3,141 nationwide where abuses allegedly take place.

    On its face, the class-action bill is mere procedural tinkering, transferring from state to federal court actions involving more than $5 million where any plaintiff is from a different state from the defendant company. But federal courts are much more hostile to class actions than their state counterparts; such cases tend to be rooted in the finer points of state law, in which federal judges are reluctant to dabble. And even if federal judges do take on these suits, with only 678 of them on the bench (compared with 9,200 state judges), already overburdened dockets will grow. Thus, the bill will make class actions--most of which involve discrimination, consumer fraud and wage-and-hour violations--all but impossible. One example: After forty lawsuits were filed against Wal-Mart for allegedly forcing employees to work "off the clock," four state courts certified these suits as class actions. Not a single federal court did so, although the practice probably involves hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide.

    In one such case in Washington State, attorney Toby Marshall is representing 40,000 workers, each of whom stands to gain, on average, a couple of hundred dollars in unpaid wages. While this may be a significant sum for people making just over minimum wage, it's far too little to merit a lawyer's filing an individual claim, especially given the cost of suing the nation's largest retailer, which Marshall estimated at several hundred thousand dollars. That would mean Wal-Mart would never have to pay Georgie Hartwig for the meal and rest breaks she says she wasn't allowed to take over the seven years she worked for the chain. Hartwig said that if she protested, she was told, "You're on Wal-Mart time."

    The right's success with the class-action bill is the story of how a group of legal extremists crafted a message, brought almost every Fortune 500 corporation on board and then pumped money into organizing and seeding the culture with that message. If progressives don't match their tenacity, one of the last effective levers for social and economic justice will cease to function. At that point, people like Georgie Hartwig--or, potentially, any one of us--will be on Wal-Mart time for good.

    http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20050307&s=zegart
     
  2. musicman
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    musicman Senior Member

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    While I have no special affinity for Wal-Mart, this article emits the sound of "progressives" (read: Democrats) mourning the loss of yet another one of their carefully crafted constituency groups. And, yet again, what's bad news for Democrats is good news for America.

    "Not satisfied with nibbling away at the welfare state, already the thinnest in the industrialized West...".

    That's a BAD thing? It appears to have escaped Mr. Zegart's notice that A) America is the LEADER of the industrialized West, most of which is B) speeding headlong toward the socialist pipe dream, anyway. These moral weaklings and dangerous friends can only live in their dream world in the context of a strong, vibrant U.S. If they had brains or conscience, they'd be emulating conservative America - but then - so would the Democrats.

    "The class-action lawsuit bill is premised on the need to end supposedly rampant litigation abuses in state courts....".

    Supposedly, my ass. The quality of American life is down in direct proportion to the iincrease in the number of LAWYERS. We pay the price of their existence in almost every move we make anymore.

    "But numerous studies have shown no spike in tort filings..."

    As soon as I hear the phrase, "numerous studies have shown", my B.S. detector goes on full alert. Dishonest people with an axe to grind can twist language and numbers to make them reach any predetermined conclusion that's required. "Numerous studies" by whom? Why is there "no spike" - could it be because the number of filings has remained CONSISTENTLY HIGH?

    After you shake hands with a "progressive", count your fingers.
     
  3. MJDuncan1982
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    MJDuncan1982 Member

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    Yea take away the lawyers and see how much 'better' this country becomes.

    I think for the most part this bill is good stuff but many want to extend it to kill class-actions that have negative payouts, i.e. the share of cost for each plaintiff is more than the amount each plaintiff gets from the settlement (of course this does not mean that the plaintiffs lose money, most of the big money is put up by the law firm because they know they will get a hefty payout). However, the main scenario I want class-actions to operate in is where a giant corporation steals $10 from a million people. We either encourage companies stealing $10 million by not litigating or file class-actions. Deterrence is also a function of a tort action, not just compensation.
     
  4. musicman
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    musicman Senior Member

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    Can we just try it out..... PLEASE???!!!
     
  5. Avatar4321
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    Avatar4321 Diamond Member Gold Supporting Member

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    After ive made some money.
     
  6. musicman
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    musicman Senior Member

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    LOL! We'll write in an exception, Avatar. The rare lawyer who can demonstrate that he is basically a decent human being gets a pass!
     
  7. KarlMarx
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    KarlMarx Senior Member

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    I wish I could! And yes, I'd like to see.

    While there are some decent lawyers and law abiding, I'm afraid that they are rare exceptions.

    The problem with you lawyers is that most of you are too busy chasing a buck to have any respect for the law. Lawyers seem to have the least respect for the law because they know how to get around it.

    From what I've also seen, many lawyers are also too busy chasing skirts as well. My ex worked for lawyers, and they were playing musical beds with their clients. And the stories I hear about lawyers convinces me that her experience wasn't unique.

    The plain fact is that there are too many of you in this country and that you are messing the whole freaking country up! It's one job that should be outsourced to India, Paksistan or better yet, Pluto.....

    1. The soaring divorce rate ----- lawyers play a part
    2. A run away litigation society that is forcing jobs overseas ---- lawyers play a part
    3. The flu vaccine shortage ---- lawyers had a hand in that one
    4. The disintingration of discipline in the public school system ---- lawyers play a part in that
    5. The high cost of doing business and the excessive amount of rules and regulations ----- lawyers play a part in that
    6. The slaughter of millions of innocent babies at the hands of their mothers and abortion providers ----- lawyers hands are dripping red
    7. A judiciary that is legislating from the bench ---- lawyers are pulling the strings
    8. The fact that doctors are leaving the medical profession and many women can't get decent OB/GYN care ---- lawyers are behind that one.

    If you ever wonder why lawyers are so despised, take a look at the attitudes and practices of your colleagues. It is well deserved. You lawyers are the most contemptible scum on the planet. If ever there were an enemy of justice, the nemesis of decency and the destroyer of Western Civilization it is a lawyer. You bastards are like rats, the less of you there are the better for the rest of us.

    Lawyers and the law profession is the one industry that is under regulated. And the problem is that it polices itself, that is like the fox guarding the henhouse.

    The day that lawyers start to live in constant fear of having their license to practice law taken away, the day they start to have to worry about being sued for malpractice as much as doctors do, the day every action of a lawyer is put under a microscope, scrutinized and hyperscrutinized.... when that day comes, it will be a great, grand and glorious one for our Nation and its citizens. On that day, the chains that we put on you and your colleagues will be the very ones that you bastards forged and laid on the rest of us.

    P.S. Apologies to Avatar, these comments were not directed at you.
     
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  8. Bonnie
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    Bonnie Senior Member

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    LOL you guys trying make Avatar poor already!! J/K
     
  9. MJDuncan1982
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    MJDuncan1982 Member

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    Will respond later to the rest of your post but as to the last bit...the legal profession is one of the only professions where UNETHICAL, not just ILLEGAL, behavior can terminate your ability to perform.

    Everyone hates lawyers until YOU need one - then they are a God send.
     

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