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John Hopkins

Tort Reform—Corporate America’s Answer to Doing the Wrong Thing

» Written by // March 26, 2008 // , ,


Do Big Corporations rail against the production of defective products? Do they form groups to monitor unsafe manufacturing methods? Does Corporate America want to put the American consumer first? The answer is a resounding—NO! So, do these things, by themselves, make Big Corporations bad? Again, a resounding-NO!

Corporate America is in the business of maximizing profits. This strengthens our economy and helps to keep people employed. I am in favor of Corporate America making a profit and in their growth. What I am not in favor of is Big Corporations who invest millions of dollars in efforts that try to twist constitutional rights of our citizens in an effort to maximize Big Corporation profits. I am not in favor of Big Corporations who purchase legislators who sneak through legislation designed to protect Big Corporations to the detriment of citizens.

Big Corporations have regularly formed and funded groups that wear the clothes of consumer advocates and have the heart of Corporate America. There was the “Tobacco Institute” that, until 1998, Big Tobacco used to spew propaganda about the benefits of smoking cigarettes and to grease the palms of legislators for favorable legislation. Many of the Big Corporations spend millions funding groups like Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, the American Tort Reform Association, and the Center for Consumer Freedom. All very noble sounding groups; all backed by Big Business; and all making efforts to reduce an American citizen’s ability to pursue justice through an open court system.

In fairness, has tort reform helped American citizens by improving healthcare, creating a stronger economy, or increasing the safety of manufactured products? Once again, a resounding NO! What tort reform has done is to increase the profitability of insurance companies; reduced the exposure to corporations who produce unsafe and dangerous products; and given us a healthcare system without any real checks on negligent or reckless medical treatment of patients.

Another Big Corporation group is Pacific Research Institute and it has recently issued an analysis of states and their tort laws. Somewhat inanely, the report categorized states with labels, such as: sinners, saints, salvageables, and suckers. In my humble opinion, the analysis really tells us nothing; since it does not appear to include influential factors like population differences or geographic differences. CEO for the American Association for Justice, Jon Haber, had the following comments:

ExxonMobil, Phillip Morris, and Big Pharma are all corporate wrongdoers who have spent millions to destroy the civil justice system using groups such as Pacific Research Institute. But PRI’s new study actually agrees with independent experts that tort reform does not work.

“PRI’s study is entirely bogus and has no methodology or academic basis for its results. PRI cites themselves or the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) no less than 34 times in the footnotes. Not surprisingly, PRI and ATRA are both funded by oil, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies.

“Even biased, junk research shows tort reform is simply a scheme by powerful corporations to avoid accountability in the courtroom and stack the deck against every day Americans.”

In Florida, medical malpractice tort reform has really only been successful in barring the courthouse doors to people who have fallen victim to the negligence of corporate healthcare:

  • By capping non-economic damages, it has caused attorneys to refuse to pursue legitimate cases of negligence because the capped damages are insufficient to justify the costs and time involved in investigating the case.
  • By capping damages, corporate healthcare providers are able to make decisions based on a finite exposure to damages if their decision is more to advantage the bottom line than to deliver quality healthcare.
  • By capping damages, insurance companies are able to reduce their claim pay outs without reducing premium charges.
  • By capping damages, it has provided the final motivation for physicians to not purchase insurance to protect their patients in the event they are negligent.
  • By capping damages, there has simply been a transfer of costs away from the responsible party and over to social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid; allowing us all to pay for the negligent conduct of healthcare providers.

So, once again, we have permitted and, in fact, encouraged Big Corporations to place profits over people.


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