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For many years, the discussion about tort reform has centered around the trial lawyer support of Democrats. It has been suggested that a lot of the attacks on consumer rights are a way to cut off funding sources in campaigns. The whole nature of tort reform in its Rove/Bush Texas Governor inception was to make villains out of the trial lawyers.

Trial lawyers have responded in kind to the pushers of tort reform. I have written many times about the harm it has on consumers by making the changes that the tort reformers champion. Injuryboard writer Andrew Cochran writes often about conflict that conservative tea party members have with positions on tort reform and what the 7th Amendment says. I have questioned how you can read the 2nd Amendment so literally and at the same blow off the 7th Amendment.

Across the nation, the Republican legislatures have been busy at work pulling back consumer rights:

+ ‘Loser pays’ becomes law in Texas – 5/31
+ Pa. Bar opposes reform measure, draws ire of members – 5/13
+ ‘Loser pays’ bill passes Texas House in emergency session – 5/10
+ Ariz. passes reform for contingency contracts with AG’s office – 4/15
+ Lawsuit reform becomes law in Oklahoma – 4/13
+ Tort reform bill passes Pa. House – 4/12
+ Calif. tort reform bill voted down by committee – 3/29
+ Texas lawmakers file ‘loser pays’ bills in House, Senate – 3/22
+ W.Va. congressman joins Civil Justice Caucus – 3/14
+ Tort reform bill introduced in Congress – 3/11

Some of the same is going on here in Minnesota, I wonder if there is another agenda here that is not being addressed. The majority seems hell bent on providing immunities for individual businesses. They have held hearings on the cheeseburger bill and on the immunities bill concerning companies that bought into other companies that created deadly asbestos. The majority is not championing some tort reform theory here, they are providing governmental protection for individual private companies. How nice would it be if the government gave you a blanket immunity to do whatever you wanted?

I have always fought hard against the the tort reformers. This is an old philosophy issue going back to the early creation of our country with deep roots in the English system. The importance of keeping the courtroom doors open to the consumer is vital to us being a free country.

But, how in the world do you square any philosophy of the guardianship of private businesses? What kind of free market is this? Some may use examples (such as med mal reform) to say that we do protect individual citizens. While I understand the example, the idea that we are picking individual companies such as McDonalds and Asbestos manufactures and saying they are not at fault for the damage they do, is just simply wrong.

What did these companies do to gain this kind of protection? It makes you wonder how much of the other arguments are really just camouflage and window dressing for deep down real agendas to protect the money of wrongdoers. I have searched my memory bank to come up with any example of other political bills that were this specific and contrary to our very system. I would be interested if any reader would suggest one.

It is time this legislature stop being the defenders for those at fault and truly become the protectors of the consumer.


  1. Gravatar for Andrew Cochran

    Thanks for this timely post and your reference to my writings and work. We're seeing disagreements inside the GOP about the nature of the right to a jury trial for civil suits and the enumeration of states' rights to run their own legal systems without federal preemption. Those debates are really just beginning. It's clear that the principled "Constitutional conservatives" in the Tea Party side of the GOP recognize the unconstitutionality of federal tort reform (Ron Paul and Prof. Randy Barnett), but not all self-described "CCs" have adopted that position in their platforms and speeches (Michele Bachmann). The business community is perfectly comfortable with complete federal preemption of most state law cases. My fellow Republicans cannot claim that ObamaCare is unconstitutional, then turn around and propose sweeping federal tort reform. We have to continue to make those points to them. And we have much more to do to promote and protect the "liberty interest" in open courtrooms at the state and local level. Surely our Founders didn't intend for the fundamental right to civil jury trials to be limited to federal court proceedings! More on that in the coming weeks.

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