Posted: 8/18/2004 11:53:04 AM EST
I realize there are those here who hate lawyers with a passion, (next to the group that thinks every cop is a "JBT") and their posts will be predictable. But without stirring anything up, should the little girl in this case have her damages capped, at say 250k?
One more question, if lawyers fees were capped to the point where is was not financially attractive to take such a case, who would represent her? Would you want such an environment if it were your little girl, that every lawyer you called said, "sorry man...after tort reform I just do real estate..."
Curbing our right to sue is worse than any lawyer
By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist
Published July 8, 2004
This starts out gross, okay? I mean, if you are eating breakfast or have a weak stomach you just shouldn't read it. Go read something else. But I am kind of mad and want to make it perfectly clear what can be involved in these things.
Picture a 5-year-old in a community swimming pool. She's in the wading pool where she's been many times. Her parents are right there. But it turns out the drain cover has been kicked loose because it wasn't screwed down, and the manufacturer never told anybody it was supposed to be screwed down.
So she sits down on the exposed drain. And it sucks her intestines right out. Somehow she lives, although it costs a fortune in surgery and medical bills and she's doomed to a lifetime of suffering.
Isolated case? No, a nationwide pattern involving the same drain cover. A kid in New Mexico gets his arm trapped and drowns. A South Dakota kid gets his guts pulled out. A 10-year-old in Texas is held underwater for 10 minutes but miraculously lives. A California girl's hair is caught and she dies.
A design change costing about 2 cents per drain would have prevented the problem. The manufacturer knew about the accidents but did nothing, ignoring warnings from its own safety staff. And when it finally began stamping warnings on new products, it kept selling the old ones anyway.
Now in your mind, I want you to sit your own son or daughter on top of that pool drain.
And then, if you still are in the mood, you go right ahead and explain to me what a terrible problem it is in our society that injured people get to sue companies like that.
This swimming pool case was one of John Edwards' victories as a trial lawyer in North Carolina. So was the case of a guy who got a triple dose of the wrong stuff in the hospital that permanently paralyzed him. And so forth.
Edwards' selection as John Kerry's running mate on Tuesday naturally set off another round of hissing and booing about his profession. My Republican brothers and sisters seem to believe that when they spit out the words "trial lawyer" we are all supposed to recoil in horror, as if we had heard the words "child molester."
But this trial lawyer thing ain't black and white, is all I'm saying.
I know the other side, I swear.
Sure, there are hack lawyers chasing ambulances and plaguing the world with sleazy ads to whip up business.
There are lawyers who don't care if their lawsuits tear down family businesses that were built up over a lifetime.
There are good doctors hounded out of their chosen profession.
But, here is the tricky part:
What are we supposed to do?
Are we supposed to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Is it all or nothing?
Listen. If my choice is between protecting Kenneth Lay and Enron for stealing billions of dollars and destroying thousands of lives, or allowing a trial lawyer to sue 'em, then that's a pretty easy call.
If you want to argue that Erin Brockovich should never have been able to go after Pacific Gas & Electric for dumping cancer-causing chemicals, you go right ahead. Not me.
Love Canal. Exploding Pintos. The Dalkon Shield. Sometimes big corporations hurt little people. Sometimes they do it by accident. But sometimes they should have known better.
Little guys get to have lawyers.
At least, little guys get to have lawyers until the big guys fool them into giving up that right. That has been precisely the target of the big guys' efforts for many years now. They like to call that effort "tort reform."
Here in Florida, we have a funny and ironic situation that proves just how fake this game is. It so happens that one of the leading Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, Mel Martinez, is - gasp! - a trial lawyer.
So in Florida only, the Republican Party is willing to make an exception. "We mean all the other trial lawyers, not good old Mel," they are saying.
But when it comes to all the other lawyers, my Republican brothers and sisters want me to jerk my knee. I won't do it. I demand the right to pick and choose which lawsuits I think are good, and which I think are bad, and not rush to throw away my own rights like a moron just because somebody tosses out the words "trial lawyer."
I could care less about having damages capped if we could cap the amount the lawyers take off the top. That would do more for tort reform than anything else. How many class action lawsuits are there out there where the lawyers make millions and the victims(?) get only a few bucks?