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Limiting the Right of Consumers to Sue

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The New York Times published an editorial on January 16, 2007 suggesting that pro-business tort reform initiatives are succeeding throughout the judicial system, the federal government and in state legislatures across the country. The editorial suggests that public relations campaigns are painting the picture that almost all litigation against business is frivolous and that consumers do not deserve the right to sue corporations to demand accountability. The editorial points to people like Jack Cline as an example of why such perceptions are false. Jack Cline was exposed to benzene in his place of employment and as a result was striken with leukemia. According to the editorial, Jack Cline cannot file suit against the chemical manufacturer of benzene alleging product liability because of tort reform initiatives in his home state of Alabama.

According to the New York Times editorial,

Corporate America — with its large contributions to political and judicial candidates, and its top-dollar lobbyists — has had remarkable success persuading legislatures and courts to erode the bedrock principle of civil law: when people are injured, they are entitled to sue for damages.

I am happy to see that one of the nation’s largest circulated newspapers gets it:

Big business and its allies are loudly promoting “tort reform” by arguing that America is drowning in frivolous lawsuits. They are winning the public relations battle. Everyone knows the story of the woman who sued McDonald’s because she was burned by hot coffee. But few people know of the Jack Clines — and there are many of them — who have been denied their day in court.

I agree and believe that no matter the political affiliation, any person or business that seeks to take away our constitutional right to trial by jury should be viewed with considerable skepticism. This is particularly true because in my opinion, tort reform initiatives are nothing more than code words for government interference into our ability as citizens to make decisions for ourselves about when to hold a person or business accountable for their actions. What do you think?