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Don Jacobs
Don Jacobs
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US Chamber of Commerce lawsuit abuse ads

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Well the new administration isn’t even sworn in yet and already the moneyed interests in the country are buying advertising time to convince the public there are too many lawsuits. For the last eight years the republican congress and executive branch have tried to enact more and more laws to limit lawsuits against corporations. Federal regulations have been changed to make it harder to sue by creating more hoops for a consumer to pass through before they get their day in court. Some of the regulations are so restrictive they essentially give some companies complete immunity from any liability if people are harmed by their products. Corporate America is afraid the new administration will roll back some of these roadblocks and enact tort laws that are more consumer friendly. They must feel the ads will convince people more tort reform is needed so they’ll put pressure on their elected representatives to preserve those laws and regulations enacted over the last eight years. Of course, what they don’t want to limit is business against business lawsuits. These suits make up the vast majority of court cases in America. No, they want to limit consumer suits. Lawsuits brought by people who get hurt by dangerous products. Such as ones that target corporations that use tainted milk products from China made with poisonous melamine. Or the suits brought by consumers who’ve just seen their life savings or pensions evaporated because of Enron like corporate greed. So they roll out the new ads in a nationwide media buy called “the faces of lawsuit abuse”. Of course the ads are all about small businesses struggling to survive in a lawsuit happy world. So why did the National Federation of Independent Business release a survey in 2008 that showed the “costs and frequency of lawsuits” ranked at the bottom of small businesses’ concerns? Prior surveys of small businesses conducted by Business Week and the National Association of Manufacturers also showed litigation wasn’t really much of a concern to most small businesses. The reason? There is no litigation explosion, especially against small business owners. This myth has been perpetuated for years by people who stand to gain something if the public believes it. Don’t take my word for it. Ask any judge, court clerk, bailiff, lawyer or anyone else who works at a courthouse. Better yet review the public data from the state courts in your state. The truth is lawsuits brought by consumers make up a tiny fraction of the suits filed in this country. Yet the public is subjected to continuous pounding of this litigation explosion message in expensive nationwide ad campaigns. So who is behind the new set of ads? There is an old expression called “follow the money”. If you followed the money behind these ads you wouldn’t end up at a group of small business owners. You’d end up at some of the biggest corporations in the country. A recent press release by the American Association for Justice showed the US Chamber’s own financial disclosures reveal its Institute for Legal Reform is funded by corporations notorious for their negligence and misconduct. The release gave examples of some of these “small businesses” who need help from lawsuit abuse. Major corporations that sit on the front group’s board include Wal-Mart, Citigroup, AIG, Bank of America, and a slew of insurance and drug companies. A quote from the American Association for Justice’s CEO John Haber sums it up fairly well, “When you are bankrolled by giant multi-billion dollar corporations, it’s laughable to claim you’re out protecting the interests of small businesses”.