Last night, Injury Board member Brett Hanna penned an excellent IB post entitled Lax Oil Industry Oversight? That’s an Understatement. Brett, a fine lawyer from Salt Lake City, Utah, reports that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar testified before the Senate, yesterday, and cited collective responsibility for the disaster, promising an overhaul of federal regulations that, along with "weak industry effort", led to the massive oil spill. Brett suggests that it may be "too little, too late".
Too little too late, indeed. This BP fiasco turns "drill baby, drill" on its ear. Over the years, Lawsuit Financial was asked to finance some of the Exxon Valdez cases, as fisherman, with their businesses in shambles, were waiting years and years to receive paltry sums of money in compensation that had no hope of ever restoring them to pre-spill fitness.
If BP really wants to create goodwill, they should develop a system of fair compensation (without the need for inevitable litigation) to those whose businesses have been severely impacted by this latest disaster. It will probably not happen; "business as usual" will result in the U.S. Chamber getting involved; lawyers and victims will be demonetized for "picking on" BP, and being "greedy" for asking for simple compensation for the loss of their livelihood.
We in the trial lawyer community are watching to see how BP and the US Chamber behaves. Corporate America has been lying about the civil justice system for years so that it can reduce the amounts of compensation that real victims receive to artificially low numbers. They use pet names for this effort, which was started by big tobacco and big pharma. "Tort Reform", "Jackpot Justice", "Frivolous Lawsuits", "Junk Lawsuits" "Lawsuit Abuse" are some of their favorites. Most of the time, the effort suggests a damages "cap" on the amount a person or business can recover when a corporation, hospital, or person is negligent and causes serious harm. My constant questions in the face of this attack on civil justice are these:
Why does a "junk" or "frivolous" lawsuit need a damages cap? Isn’t this just a lame attempt to lie to the American people and increase corporate profits on the backs of the people that corporate America has harmed the most?
Tort reform does not impact only the injured or disabled. Tort reform is corporate welfare and leaves the American taxpayer to pick up the slack. Let me repeat that in the strongest terms. THE CORPORATION IS EXCUSED; YOU PAY THEIR BILL! The average American thinks that these injuries or business losses won’t happen to him; well, they may, and when they do, he will have sacrificed all of his rights on the alter of corporate greed. Call your senator or congressman; call your state senator or state representative; tell them that you stand with the victims of this disaster. Tell them you stand with all victims; tell them to say "no" to tort reform of any kind.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.