Gene Siskal must be rolling over in his grave. The New York Times reports that the United States Chamber of Commerce will begin airing anti-lawsuit, anti-lawyer attack ads in movie theatres across the country. That’s right, fellow citizens, as you settle in, preparing to watch Star Trek or Terminator, as you munch on your popcorn or sip your soda, you will be treated to the latest distortions about our system of justice. You will be blatantly lied to by an organization that has decided to victimize, for a second time, victims of negligent conduct, perpetrated by negligent store owners or corporations, members of the Chamber, of course. These victims were seriously injured and/or disabled in accidents that were the fault of the people or companies telling their stories in these ads.
As it’s latest version of the tiresome and overused McDonald’s coffee case, The Chamber trots out three "victims" of lawsuit abuse. The first is the owner of a pool supply store who is being sued by a pedestrian who was lunged at by a "wild" goose that the Chamber says was "nesting near his store". Never mind that the goose was not "nesting" and it was not "wild". It was a pet, being fed by the store owner. Now, I ask people of common sense: In this instance, if the pedestrian was seriously injured from the fall, who is responsible? The store owner whose pet lunges at a passer-by or the pedestrian who was minding his own business, simply walking by, and was attacked by a pet? Answer: Of course, the store owner.
The next example of frivolity is a gasket maker who faces 100 asbestos lawsuits. Check out what Wikipedia says about asbestos. The inhalation of this harmful substance causes lung cancer and a malignancy called Mesothelioma. If you were a cancer victim facing a fight for your life and a mountain of medical bills, and the gasket maker caused your condition, who should be responsible for your care, treatment, wage loss, rehabilitation, and for those very unlucky souls, funeral expenses? You? Your health insurance carrier? No! Absolutely not; it is the gasket maker.
Finally, the Chamber cites a lawsuit against a seven year old whose family was sued for $75,000 because their 7-year-old son was skiing and ran into another skier. The article gives no details; I guess we will have to wait for the movie, but given the other two stories cited, does anyone out there give any credibility to the Chamber? Why is a novice seven year old on a slope in position to injure another?
I am a safety advocate; my company, Lawsuit Financial, is a company that assists those whose safety was violated by the negligence of another person or company and who was injured in the process. I work with their retained attorneys to help achieve justice for these injured victims. I consider this simple quest for justice one of the noblest endeavors one can undertake on behalf of another, less fortunate, person.
I long for the day when the number of lawsuits are reduced because manufacturers stop making unsafe products; when substances like asbestos are no longer polluting our environment. I long for the day when doctors and drivers are more careful; when companies stop importing dangerous products from overseas (Chinese drywall, anyone?) just to cut costs. I long for the day when interstate highways, roads and bridges are made safer for our daily commute. Until that day, the single, most effective tool available in our society to fight this fight for safety is the threat of a lawsuit. Without this threat, there would be more dangerous products and substances, more dangerous bridges and roads, more careless doctors and drivers. The trial lawyer and the threat of a lawsuit are, without question, the single, most effective, safety devices in our society.
The Chamber of Commerce is a pro-business organization. I get that. I really do. By now, we all get the the Chamber thinks lawsuits are bad for business. What I don’t get is the notion that what is good for business should triumph over what is good for the safety of our citizens. I don’t get why the Chamber would donate money to fight Cancer, for instance, but champion the avoidance of responsibility for those who cause it. I don’t understand why it would complain about healthcare costs for small business, but seek to prevent justice for those whose conditions were misdiagnosed or not diagnosed by a bad doctor, causing mountains of additional medical expenses. I don’t understand why the Chamber would contribute its weight and muscle to a "stop drunk driving" campaign, but support legislation and reform that prevents a drunk driver’s seriously injured victim from holding the drunk accountable for damges in court. No, I don’t understand; I will never understand, and I will never stop fighting for our simple, basic right to be safe.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He 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.