The Associated Press reports that another lawsuit arising from the 2008 explosion at an International Paper plant near Jackson, Mississippi, has been settled. This and three other recent cases were resolved under seal, at undisclosed terms. The May 3, 2008 explosion claimed the life of 28-year-old Marcus Christopher Broome, while injuring brothers Darren and David Clark and 20 others at International Paper’s Redwood plant, located approximately 30 miles west of Jackson.
Pro-business interests, insurance companies, the US Chamber of Commerce, and other pro-tort reform groups complain of a legal system that produces "jackpot justice" and "lawsuit abuse". The International Paper lawsuits tell a totally different story. The amounts of recovery are not being trumpeted across the media waves. Billy Quin, the attorney representing several of the victims is not crowing about how much money he obtained for his various clients. Instead, according to Quin, what has come out of this tragedy and the lawsuits that it spawned is this:
"…these lawsuits and the settlements that have been reached to date have caused International Paper to overhaul the safety standards associated with the startup of recovery boilers at all of its plants…"
These lawsuits have improved safety! You won’t see big-business use these suits as examples of a legal system run amuck. You won’t hear the tort reform crown scream "lawsuit abuse" or "jackpot justice" here. In fact, these lawsuits and thousands more like them, have produced the intended results of all personal injury lawsuits. They have compensated the victims and their families and they made International Paper take a long, hard look at their safety standards, then take bold steps to overhaul those standards. These are the positive results of appropriate personal injury litigation. The cumulative effect of these efforts can be summed up in two words: "justice" and "safety".
In any system, you can find exceptions, anomalies, instances where circumstances are unusual. The game of the tort reformers is to try to convince you that these unusual circumstances are the norm, not the exception. So, they take these unusual cases and scream about them from every mountaintop in the country. But, you won’t hear them scream about the International Paper cases and thousands of similar accidental injury victims who are quietly and professionally compensated, and whose injuries caused a perpetrator to look at and improve its safety standards. The tort reformers would rather distort the truth, condemn the system, and laugh at you (all the way to the bank) when you allow (or encourage) changes in the law that make you, the taxpayer, responsible for compensating victims, instead of the companies that actually caused the injuries and/or the insurance companies that, for profit, agreed to accept responsibility for those injuries.
Lawsuit Financial invites you to turn away from the politics of profits over people, the politics of the tort reformers. We are a pro-justice company that provides sensible, strategic lawsuit funding to victims, who, while in pursuit of justice in litigation, are being financially squeezed by more powerful business and insurance interests. We assist by paying a victim’s important bills and expenses, during periods of disability, so that he/she won’t have to give in to these powerful interests and settle a valuable case for pennies on the dollar. In short, we try to make a difference for justice.
By turning away from the tort reformers, by contacting your elected representatives and raising your voice in support of victims and justice, you, too, can make a difference. After all, we are all one incident, one moment, one instant, away from being victims, ourselves. Think about that the next time you hear someone yell "lawsuit abuse" and yell back… in support of justice.
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.