Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice, wrote at RollCall.com about the importance of trial lawyers as the last resource (and often, the only resource) to address corporate misconduct.
Reading this article made me think, as I often do, of a thought experiment.
Here it goes– think about your answers to the following questions:
(1) How many individuals, yourself and/or others, do you know of who filed a lawsuit against a corporation?
[I bet your answer is very few].
(2) How many of those individuals were found by the legal system to have a frivolous claim?
[I bet your answer is zero].
(3) How many individuals do you know who in effect “won the lottery” and walked away with a big payday as a result of their lawsuit? (This being individuals you KNOW FIRSTHAND won what you think– people routinely gossip, second hand about individuals supposedly winning far, far more than actually occurred).
[I bet your answer is zero, or very few].
(4) How many individuals do you know of who have lost $500 or more as a result of a corporation’s careless or intentional conduct?
[I bet your answer is far more people than your answers to 1-3 combined].
Ms. Lipsen writes:
It has been a daily occurrence to see the news dominated by the latest example of corporate misconduct. Each saga follows the same pattern: Tragedy occurs, followed by apologies tempered by denials and claims of innocence, and evidence that profits were knowingly put ahead of the safety and well-being of the American people.
At the same time, we have also seen how federal agencies lack the resources to adequately protect and safeguard the American people. Regulation is difficult when corporations brag about the millions of dollars saved by limiting their recalls or ignoring industry guidelines in spite of consumer safety.
Ultimately, Americans simply want safe products, fewer preventable injuries and a restoration of checks and balances that give people a fair chance to obtain recourse — before a company’s rampant negligence secures its position in the hot seat. But only after tragic accidents do we closely analyze the agencies and systems that failed, and what must be corrected.
Every time we do so, there is only one institution that consistently protects consumers and holds wrongdoers accountable: America’s civil justice system.
[O]nce these [corporate] scandals fade away, it will be telling to see whether some lawmakers continue with their fixation on “tort reform” — or handing out immunity to the very same corporations responsible for injuring consumers in the first place. Because today, such calls are not only illogical and tone-deaf, but contrary to the interests of all Americans.
Corporations, or their hired guns at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have dedicated millions of dollars to demonize trial attorneys. Yet each corporate scandal and dangerous product show that when the first lines of defense fail to protect the safety of consumers, only the civil justice system can hold negligent corporations accountable and restore justice. At the end of the day, it’s trial attorneys — not the corporations that put profits ahead of safety — that speak for the interests of these families and consumers.