Sept. 11 laws raise fears of tort reform: Is ground zero a slippery slope?

National Law Journal
Monday, December 3, 2001

Stealth tort reform? Some plaintiffs' lawyers think it's coming with terrorism relief.

Many of the bills rushed through Congress after Sept. 11 include limits on victims' right to sue airlines, aircraft makers, airports, the city of New York -- and even, for several weeks, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Defenders of these limits say they are a one-time response to the terrorist attacks. But some plaintiffs' lawyers fear they may provide a model for future proposals to limit civil lawsuits.

Leo Boyle, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), frequently characterizes Sept. 11 as "mass murder, not a mass tort." Boyle's group supports the federal compensation plan, although it is lobbying to make it as victim-friendly as possible.

In the first days after the attack, ATLA called for a moratorium on suits. It offered to represent, for free, anyone who chooses to go through the administrative procedure rather than take their chances in court.
But some plaintiffs' lawyers and other opponents of tort reform worry that it may be difficult for ATLA to draw a clear line around the events of Sept. 11.

"There is a slippery-slope problem that we're all concerned about," says Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a New York-based nonprofit group that opposes tort reform. "The more kinds of liability protections that actually pass through Congress, the more they're likely to come back for more."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

Join Our Fight!

The Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting our civil justice system. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

Connect with us