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The Hypocrisy of Tort Reform Advocates

Caterpillar is a well-known maker of industrial equipment, including construction vehicles, mining equipment, engines and more. As a board member of the Institute for Legal Reform, they are a leader in the movement to restrict the ability of individuals to sue after suffering a personal injury at the hands of a negligent corporation. This movement, under the misleading name "tort reform," is not aimed at reducing frivolous lawsuits. Its goal is to protect corporations from being held accountable for the consequences of their actions. The evidence of this is clear; recently, Caterpillar sued Disney for depicting bulldozers as overly villainous in the video release of George of the Jungle 2.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which despite its name is not a governmental body, has waged war against injured individuals for years. They want their member businesses, such as Caterpillar, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson and Honeywell, to be immune from lawsuits when their products hurt or kill people as the result of negligence by the corporation. When these same companies file lawsuits that easily fit their description of "frivolous," they are revealing the hypocrisy of the tort reform movement.

Johnson & Johnson is currently caught up in several widespread defective products controversies. The latest to hit the headlines is a vaginal mesh product that is causing countless women excruciating pain and forcing them to have further surgeries to remove the offending product. As another board member of the Institute for Legal Reform, Johnson & Johnson would greatly restrict the rights of these women to sue for compensation to cover the harm they have suffered. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson recently sued the non-profit American Red Cross for using the red cross design on emergency preparedness and grooming kits.

When FedEx decides to sue a man for making a chair out of FedEx boxes, no one at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce howls about frivolous lawsuits. It is only when the rights of an individual who has been burned, battered, or even killed by a defective product are raised that these "tort reformers" complain. The right to sue is vital to the safety and freedom of every American. We cannot afford to lose that right to the well-oiled corporate campaign known as tort reform.

Source: American Association for Justice, "Do As I Say, Not As I Sue: Exposing the Lawsuit-Happy Hypocrites of U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform," 26 October 2011

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