WASHINGTON, November 2, 2014 – Our nation’s court system is a wonderful vantage point for seeing hypocrisy in action at the highest levels.
The Seventh Amendment to our Constitution is one of our most valuable protections. It assures us the right of trial by jury in civil cases, to have an impartial group of people in the community assess our claims and to provide justice. The amendment assures accountability. It holds big business and corporations accountable. Aside from the individual benefits, the amendment has changed our culture and has made us safer. Dangerous products have been pulled off shelves and safety guidelines have been enacted.
Denying responsibility is a key theme for big business and those who would be responsible for harming us. What better way to avoid responsibility than to enact laws that say we are not responsible? Let’s form groups to lobby lawmakers, to get them to pass these laws. Let’s spend billions of dollars to help influence the lawmakers. Let’s enact laws that uphold forced arbitration, to assure that juries never see the claims.
A Washington, D.C. based group of bloggers revealed a startling portrayal of many, known to all of us, who “happily exercise their right to have their day in court, but tirelessly work to close the courthouse doors to ordinary Americans.”
In their article “Hall of Lawsuit Hypocrites,” found on the website www.takejusticeback.com , these bloggers showcase “corporations, their front groups and even lawmakers” who believe their stuff does not stink, and yet who go to court to protect their stench. These corporations continue to act to keep others, often their own employees, from using the courts to seek redress.
The TJB bloggers identify several such hypocrites. Following are their summaries of these hypocrites’ actions.
- The United States Chamber of Commerce spends billions of dollars trying to restrict lawsuits by individuals, yet routinely files over 100 lawsuits and briefs per year on behalf of powerful corporations, such as AIG, Walmart, Firestone, and pharmaceutical and insurance companies. The Chamber has an entire division called the Institute for Legal Reform, whose sole focus is to restrict access to justice, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent lobbying elected officials in an effort to obtain immunity from suit for its multinational corporate members.
- The Wall Street Journal, through its editorial pages, routinely supports efforts to deny citizen’s access to justice. In contrast, Murdock’s paper promoted a legal theory that would enable House Speaker John Boehner and Congress to sue President Obama for allegedly failing to enforce federal laws. An editorial of June 25, 2014 promoted this theory, while 2 days earlier the WSJ editors authored an editorial piece ridiculing the civil justice system for allowing defrauded shareholders the right to hold corporations accountable for suing them.
- Speaker Boehner, like most politicians, speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He is a strong proponent against “judicial over-reach” and “excessive litigation” and he routinely backs efforts to immunize pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers from lawsuits that would hold them accountable for the harms they cause. Nonetheless, Boehner has been quick to call for litigation when policy decisions he doesn’t like surface, including the DOJ’s decision not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, and most recently, threatening to sue Obama.
- Federal Express will get your package there on time. Their time is apparently the more important priority. As a long time member of the Institute for Legal Reform (see #1 above), FedEx’s dogma includes public outcry of “frivolous lawsuits… leaving the judicial system badly overloaded, forcing those who have suffered legitimate injury to wait years to get their day in court”. When FedEx found one of it’s loyal customers built a desk, table and chairs, and even a bed, out of FedEx boxes, they sued claiming he violated their trademark.
- Johnson & Johnson did not like the Red Cross using its own red cross symbol. J&J sued the Red Cross seeking the destruction of first-aid kits, punitive damages and payment for its own legal fees. Fortunately, J&J lost. But wait, this suit was exactly what J&J has railed against over the years. It had its representatives serve on, and even one sit as a co-chairman, on the Institute for Legal Reform (see #1 above), seeking state laws that immunize corporations from lawsuits.
- Need a push or some ground moved? Caterpillar has been a long time member of the Institute (see #1 above). It has also spent at least $25 million seeking to avoid asbestos liability from two companies it bought and for its own products. It filed a lawsuit against Mickey Mouse (actually Disney) claiming that the portrayal in the movie George of the Jungle 2, of diggers, as “villainous” harmed them and their industry. A judge threw out their suit, commenting that there was “no harm.”
- Hobby Lobby, now famous for its effort to overturn a federal law they did not like, using the court system all the way to the Supreme Court, uses “required arbitration” clauses in employment contracts with its employees to prevent them from suing for illegal employment practices, including pregnancy discrimination! Arbitration is a fine method to address grievances, but when there is no appeal from the arbitrator’s decision, when it is the only avenue, when the employer selects and pays for the arbitrator, and when the arbitrators are not required to have any legal training, the employee has virtually no chance to obtain a fair result.
Say one thing, do another. Not a family value.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order
Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.
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