Today’s New York Times editorial page features an excellent piece that illustrates the unfairness of “tort reform”, whose purpose is to protect business by denying compensation to personal injury victims. The article focuses on an egregious situation in the State of Alabama where a chemical injury victim is barred from suing until “manifest injury” has surfaced, but then has the case dismissed when injury surfaces because the statute of limitations has already expired. In a judicial system that is supposed to treat the powerful and the weak alike, how can this ridiculous catch 22 be permitted?
The answer, explained in this op-ed piece, is that business and industry groups are campaigning at the state level to win immunity from lawsuits, and unfortunately they are winning without attracting much attention.
Corporate America — with its large contributions to political and judicial candidates, and its top-dollar lobbyists — has had remarkable success persuading legislatures and courts to erode the bedrock principle of civil law: when people are injured, they are entitled to sue for damages.
Business groups are well organized and funded. Injury victims are neither. This imbalance of power underscores the important role played by personal injury attorney organizations such as the American Association for Justiceand their state counterparts, such as the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers. They speak for the injured against the powerful business lobby which has persuaded state legislatures to emasculate the rights of personal injury victims who seek compensation in the state courts. Their efforts deserve the public’s support. We need to do a better job educating the public what is at stake.