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ATRA and the US Chamber of Commerce: Playing With Public Opinion


I happened over to the website of the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) for some light reading. These folks have been busy. While trial attorneys have been representing their clients these energetic folks and the US Chamber of Commerce have been writing what can only be logged in the category of interesting fiction.

I pulled up their treatise on “Defrocking Tort Deform”. No objective, informed person could call this piece of rubbish anything, but a complete rewrite of actual history. There is little in this little paper that can stand any objective, fact conscious examination.

Seeking to protect those who can not stand against adversary on their own

First ATRA redefines what trial attorneys have done in the civil justice system “for more than 45 years” and seek to label it presently with a fanciful name: “judicial nullification of tort reform”. I find that those who can not rest on the facts typically resort to fanciful names and titles. What trial attorneys have been doing for 45 years is to protect the rights of their clients; not to pass legislation that readjusted the plainly written law or the constitution. ATRA’s website describes them as just the sort of organization, which they seek to paint trial attorneys as:

  • An unparalleled track record of legislative success.
  • ATRA fights in Congress, in state legislatures…
  • ATRA works to counter that influence by challenging this status quo and continually leading the fight for common-sense reforms in the states, the Congress…

ATRA’s agenda is to essentially attack every form of justice solution and almost exclusively in favor of corporations, as set forth on their website:

ATRA supports an aggressive civil justice reform agenda that includes:

  • Health care liability reform (in favor of corporate healthcare and insurance companies)
  • Class action reform (in favor of Corporate America)
  • Promotion of jury service (in all our favor)
  • Abolition of the rule of joint and several liability (in favor of Corporate America)
  • Abolition of the collateral source rule (in favor of insurance companies)
  • Limits on punitive damages (in favor of Corporate America)
  • Limits on noneconomic damages (in favor of Corporate America and insurance companies)
  • Production liability reform (what they mean is “product liability reform” in favor of Corporate America)
  • Appeal bond reform (in favor of Corporate America and insurance companies)
  • Sound science in the courtroom (already law and has been)
  • Stopping regulation through litigation This sounds good, but what they really mean is preventing wronged people from bringing lawsuits altogether)

What ATRA and the US Chamber of Commerce have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and decades doing is to invent problems with the judicial system that really did not exist; simply because their corporate benefactors wished to eventually get a free ride from their own negligence and gluttony. They reduce complex issues to sound bites that they think play to an America they believe is gullible and easy to lead.

ATRA sets forth that “U.S. tort costs increased 35.4 percent from 2000 to 2003”. Are there no more recent statistics? Of course, but the ATRA does not want to use them since 2008 statistics demonstrate a dramatic decline in “tort costs” since 2003, when they hit their highest point over 15 years before. Since 2003, the “tort costs” figure has plummeted.

Important information that ATRA and the US Chamber of Commerce does not want the American public to learn, includes:

Lawsuits involving one corporation suing another corporation far exceed “tort” lawsuits.

Corporations and insurance companies make the conscious decision to refuse payment and engage in litigation over righteous claims in order to earn profits on the money they know they will ultimately owe.

Corporations gamble on the likelihood that statistically they will get a “good jury” and intentionally engage in litigation of righteous claims for this reason.

Corporations engage in litigation because their conduct is so very egregious, they need time to disseminate propaganda that will assist them in steering public opinion.

There is simply nothing righteous about tort reform groups like ATRA. They all waive the American flag and paint trial attorneys as the problem. Groups like ATRA and the US Chamber of Commerce are simply self-interested corporate mouthpieces, who do not say what they believe, but propagandize heated issues to their best advantage.

I have never found a tort reformer who could stand up to real facts…never…and I suspect that will always be true.

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