Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lawsuit/Tort Reform = You Get Fucked By Big Business

The Bush administration, brought to you by Haliburton, G.E., Exxon, and other large companies, signed into law a measure that will prevent many class action lawsuits from coming to light. The law requires that in order for a class action lawsuit to be brought into a state court, 1/3 of the people in the class must reside in that state. If not, it will be brought into federal court. Why is this important? Because once you get into federal court, big business has a definite advantage. See, the type of lawyers who might take a class action lawsuit in a state court case will be a smaller law firm, which is usually a law firm that will have a lot less experience in a federal setting. Big businesses can afford to hire big law firms that have 1000's of attorneys in several locations around the world. I'll guarantee you that when a class action case is filed, dozens of attorneys start working for the defense of the big company; for the plaintiffs, they're lucky that there is one attorney working on it (and even luckier if he has one or two law clerks helping out as well).

Plus, the big law firms will throw out everything they can to stall for time. I clerked for an attorney who once took on one of the big automakers in Detroit. When he requested to see all of the related documents (which the carmaker and their attorneys are supposed to turn over the requested items don't get "lost" by some law clerk or they simply can't find them because they "don't have enough manpower to sort through mountains of paperwork"), the carmaker literally sent over a tractor trailer loaded with documents. The "smoking gun" documents were in there, but they were buried and it took weeks to find it. The big firms simply "starve you out". They can file motion after motion; defense after defense; etc.. The idea is to draw out the case as long as possible until neither the plaintiffs nor their attorneys can neither bear it or afford to keep fighting.

So why doesn't the average Joe just hire one of the big law firms? Big law firms don't work on retainer. Big law firms don't take personal injury work. Big law firms only do defense work. So what type of law firm is going to take your case? A smaller law firm, which will have less experience in federal court. Small law firm attorneys certainly won't be cozy with the federal judges who were classmates of the attorneys from the big law firms. I firmly challenge anyone to call one of the big law firms in this country (need a list? I'll get you one) and call them about seeing if they'll help you sue a car manufacturer whose defective brakepads didn't work thus not enabling you to stop in time, and hit a parked car. They not only won't take your case; they won't even talk to you.

In the case of Tort/Lawsuit Reform, it's a clever switch of terminology here to get your sympathy. See, the anti-christ, I mean Bush, will call this a measure to throw out frivilous lawsuits. This makes you think that the courts are swamped with frivilous lawsuits; that every personal injury firm is filling the court docket with tons of lawsuits just hoping one will stick. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The number of filings has remained consistent for some time now. There is no glut in the courts. There has been no substantial increase in the number of cases

So what is this "frivilous" lawsuit thing about? It's a policy that Bush and his cronies are making use of; you change the terminology to suit your need. For example, now everyone is convinced that we need to get rid of the "death tax"; only problem is, it's not a tax on death. It's a tax on inheritances. Ask the average American family with two jobs, struggling to make mortgage payments, and loaded with debt if there should be a tax on the inheritance that some little rich cocksucker gets when his old man kicks the bucket. You can damn sure they'll say "hell yeah". BUT .. if you recharacterize it as a tax on death or say "you should be able to keep what you earned during your lifetime", then the average family will say "no way we should tax it" (The idea behind the inheritance tax is that it is a way to redistribute wealth in a society so that it isn't concentrated in the hands of the few). All of this simply means that you use different words to place the meaning in a different context so it becomes harder to refute or challenge (after all, what politician is going to say "yes, we need a tax on death?).

So what will the end result of all this be? This will be a return to the Ford Pinto days of the 1970's. Remember that? Probably not and most Americans have forgotten it which is disturbing. In the '70's, Ford was hit by a spate of lawsuits involving their Pinto. Apparently, when you hit the car from behind, it would explode into flames. But fixing the cars wasn't an option for Ford. Why you ask? Ford had already calculated that it was more cost efficient to settle any impending lawsuits involving Ford Pintos than to recall and fix the cars. So they were goin to let more people die rather than fix the cars because it was cheaper. Americans were outraged and all hell broke loose. Well, we've forgotten the lessons of the 70's. Guess what? With this new law, it will be cheaper for companies like G.E. and Eli Lilly to settle with victims than to correct the problems and save lives. So now you'll see the day when people die or get injured by products, they'll be told what the maximum amount they can get for their injuries because there are now laws on the books with that figure, thanks to the Anti-Christ and his coven there in D.C..

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