In recent years, efforts to rein in excesses of corporations have run head-long into an assault on individuals' right to bring suit against manufacturers whose products or activities cause them harm. This push for what its backers call “tort reform,” has been driven by a seemingly endless stream of thinly fact-checked anecdotes about frivolous lawsuits and by a brazen effort to blame the rising costs of health care on malpractice lawsuits.
CPR’s Member Scholars have conducted extensive research on the implications of "tort reform," and in a series of reports have debunked most of industry’s claims about the need for such measures. Indeed, the push for tort reform is at its core an effort to protect industry from its own excesses. By limiting the dollar damages citizens can seek in court, industry hopes to make unsafe and polluting practices less financially risky. And by denying citizens access to the courts, industry hopes to make such practices all but free of risk.
Nevertheless, the myth of the "Lawsuit Crisis" has taken root, the result of years of pounding by corporate interests intent on enacting "tort reform" that protects them from the harm their products and practices cause.
For decades, corporations intent on avoiding accountability for the illness and injuries their products sometimes cause have waged a fierce campaign against citizen access to state and federal courts. Now they've got a new gambit: a federal bill that effectively alters the rules of evidence in state courts. Read CPR's January 2014 Issue Alert.
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Protections against the dangers of toxic chemicals include federal law (the Toxic Substances Control Act), as well as state regulation and state and federal civil justice systems. TSCA needs an update, and industry is hoping to use that process to weaken the other two legs of the framework.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission's mission is to protect consumers from unsafe products. But during the Bush Administration, it often worked to shield manufacturers from liability for harm resulting from unsafe products. Read about CPR Member Scholars' research on the subject.
In recent years, the effort to protect industry from accountability in court has taken a new turn, as various industries have lined up before state legislatures and Congress seeking legislation granting broad immunity from litigation resulting from their tortious behavior. In 2012, for example, the federal “Domestic Fuels Act” (DFA) sought to grant immunity to purveyors of ethanol and other fuel additives. Such bills are the next wave of the attack on corporate accountability. CPR Member Scholars Thomas O. McGarity and Sidney Shapiro, with CPR Policy Analyst Nicholas Vidargas, explored the phenomenon in their March 2013 white paper, Sweeping Corporate Immunity for the Fuel Industry: The Next Front in the "Corporate Accountability" Wars (CPR White Paper 1303).
Among other things, CPR Member Scholars’ work in this area includes multiple installments in the Truth About Torts series: