Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Molly Ivins on "Tort Deform"

Everybody deserves his or her day in court. But not according to Bush and Co. who are determined to destroy the little person's ability to obtain justice. So-called "tort reform" is also the Republican Party's way of undermining the Democratic Party's funding as many large contributions come from trial lawyers. It is, by the way, completely inaccurate to suggest that tort reform will lower health care costs. First of all, malpractice awards account for less than 1% of all medical costs. Secondly, in states that have already enacted tort reform, malpractice insurance premiums have not gone down.

Molly Ivin's discusses this issue in her latest column, "Tort Deform", in which she reports on the indictment of W.R. Grace and Co. for exposing people to asbestos. Do remember that Bush called lawsuits involving asbestos "frivolous" in his State of the Union speech. Frankly I find that beyond outrageous.

Hundreds of miners, their family members and townsfolk in Libby, Mont., have died, and at least 1,200 more are sick from breathing the air polluted by the mine. Since the ore was shipped all over the country and was used as insulation in millions of homes, the total health effects are incalculable. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer deserves credit for bringing Grace to public attention with a series back in 1999.
The indictments... were based on tens of thousands of internal communications among the top health, marketing and legal managers at Grace about how to conceal the danger of asbestos in both the ore from the Libby mine and the products that were made from it. Their memos include discussion of how to keep investigators from studying the health of the miners, how to keep safety warnings off their products and how to hide the hazards of working with asbestos ore.

Ivins goes on to write:

Against this timely reminder of what the tort system is designed to deter or punish, the Senate voted for the "Class Action Fairness Act" (love those cute names they keep giving rotten bills) 72 to 26. There is no "flood of frivolous lawsuits" -- in fact, tort claims are declining and only 2 percent of injured people ever sue for compensation to begin with.

This is, quite simply, a travesty of justice. We are fast becoming a society without corporate accountability. And countless numbers of people will be injured with impunity as a result.

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