Center For Justice & Democracy Ranks the Top 30 “Tort Reform” Hypocrites Of 2018!

Daily Kos
Monday, June 11, 2018

By Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director, and Emily Gottlieb, Deputy Director for Law & Policy, Center for Justice & Democracy.

What’s a “tort reform” hypocrite?  It’s someone who complains about people who file lawsuits and says compensation to injured people should be limited. Yet when they’ve been harmed, they go straight to court and sue for everything they can. In other words, “tort reform” hypocrites believe that the civil justice system should be theirs alone, reserved exclusively for them. 

Over the years, the Center for Justice & Democracy has produced a number of “hypocrite” reports. Some may wonder why do another one, and why now?  When we took a look at the political and legal landscape, it was clear that a critical mass of new examples had piled up. We thought it was time to collect and rank some of the highlights – our “Top 30” to be exact.

Leading the 2018 list is Donald J. Trump:

Trump earns the position of civil justice hypocrite-in-chief simply because his hypocrisy is one for the record books. Trump has tried to block the courthouse doors to others in his business dealings and during his year and a half as President. But when he believes that he or his companies have been wronged in some way, he has always run straight to court.  He has done so thousands of times. 

Coming in at number two is the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the largest “tort reform” lobby group in the nation. ILR files almost as many lawsuits as Trump. Other lobby groups, like the National Rifle Association (NRA), frequently sue while at the same time pressuring state and federal lawmakers to enact limits on victims’ rights.  

Nineteen corporations - car, drug, asbestos, insurance and tech companies – also made the list. Some are major players in the American Legislative Exchange Council‘s Civil Justice Task Force, which writes and supports bills devoted solely to weakening or eliminating corporate liability for wrongdoing.  Bayer, which is one of the most active advocates for lawsuit limits for the sick and dying, won’t hesitate to run to court to protect its weed-killer. Georgia-Pacific – owned by Koch Industries and a strong supporter of restricting the rights of dying asbestos victims – has more than once sued to protect its paper towels and toilet paper. Every so often, Procter & Gamble, which lobbies for federal lawsuit limits, heads to court to safeguard its teeth whitener.  

Insurance companies, which for decades have attacked policyholders’ rights to go to court, love to exercise their own legal rights. In California, some companies, like State Farm and Farmers, have also been part of a relentless legal campaign to undermine the most effective pro-consumer insurance regulatory law in the nation, known as “Prop. 103.”  Texas is also well-represented on this list, with Governors (Greg Abbott and Rick Perry), a U.S. Senator (Ted Cruz) and corporate representatives (ExxonMobil and Rex Tillerson) among the top 30.

Then there’s the story of companies that force customers or employees to sign away their rights to go to court through forced arbitration clauses in credit card contracts, applications for bank loans, employment contracts, online “terms of use” agreements, and many other types of agreements – none of which are voluntary. The report describes how weeks after the Independent Community Bankers of America stood behind Trump as he wiped out class action rights for defrauded consumers, the association filed a class action against Equifax so its own members could be compensated for the data breach.

Tort restrictions advocated by these individuals, corporations and lobby groups virtually never limit the rights of corporations to sue business competitors for commercial losses.  In other words, “tort reform” hypocrites want unfettered use of the courts to recoup financial losses from trademark violations, contract breaches, patent infringements and other unfair completion claims, as well as property damage, lost goods, unpaid bills and fraud.  While arguing that consumer and plaintiffs’ lawyers are insensitive to the importance of keeping companies “litigation free,” their own corporate lawyers sue at the smallest provocation. Some have even relied on the contingency fee system to collect attorneys’ fees, a system they routinely attack.  

No one likes a hypocrite.  Yet one would be hard pressed to find more hypocrites than in the “tort reform” movement.

You can find the full list of five politicians, four special interest lobby groups, two litigators, and 19 corporations here.

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