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Too Many Lawsuits?

Posted on April 20, 2015 at 11:30 AM

I was all set to sit down and write a nice little, innocuous blog post reflecting on the ATV editorial that was in the April 15, 2015 edition of The Journal.  It is a rare thing, but I finally found myself in agreement with The Journal.  In a nutshell:  ATVs are wonderful machines, but if they are not operated properly, they will maim and kill.  The Journal then went on to urge all ATV riders to be safe.  I couldn't agree more.

As I said, the above reflects the nice blog post that I was going to write.  Before I began to write this morning I was listening to the local radio station in Martinsburg, WV, WRNR.  It was a program about the push by the republicans for "civil justice reform."  The topic is one that generates so much manufactured angst, and invites so much misinformed commentary, that I am generally left  twitching spasmodically after I have even thought about it. This morning, however, I was holding my own, as Layne Diehl was more than holding her own against the forces of mendacity in the form of Delegate, Patrick Lane, R.  Unfortunately, my equilibrium was disrupted when West Virginia's youngest delegate, Saira Blair, called into the program to discuss her views on why West Virginia is a "judicial hellhole."  

I admire Ms. Blair's making the effort to participate in our democratic process.  I'm sure that she is a nice person.  In fact, my oldest, Caitlin, a sophmore at WVU, is friends with Ms. Blair, and assures me that, politics aside, she is, in fact, a lovely person.  Unfortunately, Ms. Blair's ideas about the civil justice system in West Virginia are rubbish, and all of her talking points are lifted directly from her paterfamilias, Sen. Craig Blair, R, who, without an original thought in his head, has lifted them directly from West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse ("CALA").

CALA claims to be a non-profit, citizen watchdog group "committed to equal justice for all West Virginians."  Nothing could be further from the truth.  CALA has only one goal, and that is to protect the interests of corporations and the monied elite, by denying West Virginians fair access to the courts.  CALA seeks to do this by manufacturing a crisis where none exists.  It uses inaccurate and inflammatory claims like "civil litigation explosion", and "judicial hellhole."  CALA claims that the 'civil litigation explosion' is killing jobs in West Virginia.  To put it bluntly, these are lies, and any legislator who cravenly spouts CALA's misinformation should apologize to the citizens of West Virginia.  A 2013 report published by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, pointed out that non-family civil case filings had reached their lowest level since 1985.  Tort cases, which are the type of cases that CALA loves to hate, calling them "frivolous lawsuits" and claiming they are clogging our judicial system, make up, according to a study by the Rand Institute, a mere 6 percent of all civil filings.  This means that 94 percent of all cases filed are either family related, or one business suing another.   Further, while CALA wants to suggest that greedy trial lawyers, are killing jobs in West Virginia, somehow in 2012, West Virginia was ranked number 2 in job creation according to a study by Arizona State University.

The Center for Justice and Democracy, reports that CALA "represents major corporations and industries seeking to escape liability for the harm they cause consumers."  In 1993, a public relations front group called APCO Worldwide, created CALA, and began establishing "chapters" around the country.  These 'chapters' are not made up of local citizens, vigilant against the perditions of the trial lawyers, but rather paid representatives of corporate interests.  In 1994, a budget document from Phillip Morris states that "APCO has been setting up...Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse chapters...I would argue that it is important to continue because grass roots agitation for tort reform helps us to protect our interests."  Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, Sourcewatch, www.sourcewatch.org     

I know that West Virginians are not stupid, and I know that they don't like being taken advantage of, but that is just what is happening when we let politicians like Saira Blair and her father get a pass on using lies, manufactured by slick corporate public relations departments, to convince us to give up our rights to free and fair access to the courts.  Shame on you Saira!  Next time you call a radio show, do some INDEPENDENT research.  Now, go apologize to the nice people of West Virginia. 

Categories: The law

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