When Somebody Yells "Tort Reform" Think About Your Health

Hooker Chemical/Love Canal, NY. Exxon Valdez/Prince William Sound, AK. PG&E/Hinkley, CA. These sorry pairings are the benighted places impacted by greed-driven pollution that endangered lives and livelihoods. These are also places where remedy and redress was driven not by government, but by trial attorneys successfully litigating on behave of aggrieved communities. These pairings represent a tiny fraction of the many corporation-versus-community battles fought in the nation’s courts by private practice attorneys. The American Association for Justice has just released a report on the impact of trial attorneys on protecting the environment. It is well worth reading.

Beginning in the 1960’s, the Santa Barbara oil spill, the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the burning of the Cuyahoga River in Ohio sparked the environmental movement that led to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Whether by design or default, these landmark laws left it to trial attorneys to seek justice for people and communities harmed by the careless actions of polluting corporations.

Today we see the actions taken by BP to obscure the perceived impact of the catastrophe caused by their carelessness in the Gulf of Mexico.

Indeed, BP’s past actions point to the fact that liability for their carelessness is just another cost of doing business as demonstrated by a quick look at BP’s infamous Little Piggies memo. Indeed, shortly after that memo was written, BP found itself in dutch for killing 15 employees in a criminally negligent refinery explosion. Only when the price in dollars is high enough, will irresponsible corporations behave as good citizens. Often, our system leaves it to trial attorneys to extract the critical price for past injustice and to ensure future justice.

It is these same corporations that shout the need for “tort reform”, complain that every lawsuit is “frivolous” and seek out and fund candidates to support that agenda. They want to be free of any liability. That’s why CLCV finds it compelling and comfortable to partner with, through the California Alliance, the Consumer Attorneys of California. We fight for candidates that fight to bring justice to people exposed to environmental harm. Together we oppose candidates who would relieve corporations from facing financial consequences for their irresponsibility. And, we win.

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Posted on July 7, 2010
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