I just finished reading Harry Chapin media award winner Stephanie Mencimer’s expose book entitled “Blocking the Courthouse Door, How the Republican Party and its Corporate Allies are Taking Away Your Right to Sue.” Now I have not used this brain injury blog to express my own political feelings and beliefs, this is nevertheless a legal blog and the topic of the book certainly is relevant to those who love our civil justice system and depend upon it to hold those responsible for the harm that they cause.
Ms. Mencimer writes: “The right to a civil jury trial – guaranteed by the Bill of Rights – is in serious jeopardy. Personal injury lawsuits, the kind most despised by Bush and his business supporters are on the decline…. The notion that Americans who take on deep-pocketed defendants or health care providers are making out like bandits is belied by numbers showing that plaintiffs in civil cases are taking it on the chin, losing far more often than they win.”
Yet the perception of the legal system as out-of-whack has proven highly resistant to correction by the truth. This is by design. The movement… is the result of a concerted and successful campaign by large corporations (especially the tobacco and insurance industry, but many others besides), to get this issue on the table and limit their vulnerability in the civil justice system. They have spent decades, and many millions of dollars on focus groups and Madison Avenue public-relation research. They have funded institutes, sponsored academic research, bankrolled politicians, set up phony grass root organizations and fed copied to journalists.
For corporations, the self-interest involved is fairly plain. Tobacco companies, no longer able to dodge the bullet of liability for knowingly selling poisons, are making an end run around the civil justice system. If they can’t win a class-action suit, they’ll make suing itself illegal. Insurance companies, drowning in red ink from mismanagement and bad investments, hike insurance rates by huge sums and blame malpractice suits.
“This book is in part about the marriage of corporate desire for immunity from lawsuits and a new breed of GOP politics. It is also the story of how big businesses succeeded in taking bad public-policy proposals, packaging and stage managing them and selling them to the public through well-paid “experts” gullible journalists and intensely misleading propaganda all to the detriment of the average citizen, who still thinks that if he ever needs the legal system, it will be there for him. Unfortunately, as this book will show, in many parts of the country today, that is no longer the case.”
This book is a must-read for everyone. Too often I interview new clients who tell me “We are not the type of people who sue.” What they really mean is they are not the people who really sue until they are harmed by another and need legal representation and the protection of the civil justice system. This outstanding book can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders as well as at your local bookstore.