Bob Goodlatte, the Judiciary Chairman of the United States House of Representatives, released an inflammatory statement on March 5, 2013, blaming litigation costs for America’s bad economy and poor global competitiveness. The insupportable statement set a stage for the House Judiciary Committee’s anti-accountability campaign launched the same day, entitled “Excessive Litigation’s Impact on America’s Global Competitiveness”.
Goodlatte (left) stated that it was every congressional committee’s obligation to get America moving again, and that the Judiciary Committee could do this by advocating for a reduction in excessive litigation costs, or in other words, a reduction in corporate accountability. He also coined a phrase, stating that as a result of the country’s litigiousness, America has created what he refers to as a “tort tax”, or added cost on every product or service due to potential litigation. The committee has loaded their bench with consultants from the US Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform and the corporate tort reform community to further bootstrap theiragenda.
Mr. Goodlatte is unable to substantiate his statements with evidence and seems more happy to help his corporate buddies than he does interested in the rights of those harmed by dangerous products. Why should corporations get a free pass for their bad conduct when everyone else in the country should be held accountable when they break the rules and hurt someone? Arent we as a nation better off with increased safety in our workplace? With safer products for our children? With safer cars for our families? Mr. Goodlatteseems to have overlooked the fact that without our nation’s trial lawyers fighting for the rights of injured Americans, manufacturers and suppliers would have no external pressure to produce products that are safe for the general public. Without accountability corporations would have little incentive to change bad conduct. Essentially, corporations are beholden to their stockholders and to the bottom line. Without financial incentive to produce and sell safer products, we run the risk of increased injuries in our community, less productivity because of more injured workers, and more disabled people needing to live on public benefits because they have been harmed by dangerous products. Rocky Flick, the CEO of Blitz USA, the manufacturer of the famous faulty red gas cans, is set to testify for the campaign. Flick’s company Blitz, instead of spending the extra four cents a can to produce a safer product, attacked trial lawyers for representing the children and families injured by Blitz’negligence. I believe that in order to be properly competitive, a company must make a safe product and that our nation’s tort system of holding wrongdoers accountable should not be watered down for greater corporate profit. And as to excess verdicts, the people who serve on juries in this country are intelligent people who try their hardest to be fair to all parties. Goodlatte is insulting our communities if he says that Congress should set the numbers for compensation instead of jurors who are presented the detailed facts. Goodlatte is just playing the same old record over and over. He should give up this line of argument since there really is no evidence that our judicial system hurts our economy.
Our nation’s court systems act as a venue for individual citizens to have their voices heard, and the rights protected. The Judiciary Committee’s attack on trial lawyers, who advocate for the individual, is an affront to our right for justice and equal protection under the law. If you are injured because someone broke the rules which are meant to keep us all safe, you deserve your day in court. If the committee has their way, many never see that day. Goodlatte should concern himself more with how to make companies like BP and Enron fully accountable instead of how to shortchange cripples for the sake of corporate profits
Hello, I'm Claude Wyle. Have an idea for a topic you'd like to see covered here? Feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit CCW Lawyers dot com.
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.