The Skagit Valley Argus publishes a column by the President of the Association of Washington Business. His writings follow the usual "party line" of the Chamber of Commerce in promoting tort reform and attacking trial lawyers and the civil justice system. This my response to one of his recent diatribes:
The President of the Association of Washington Business, Don Brunell, has once again used his guest column (June 20th) to make another attack on the American civil justice system.What’s misleading about it is his citing the Washington D.C. lawsuit by a customer against a cleaners because of the facts he leaves out of the story. While he talks about how silly the lawsuit is and the dollars sued for, he doesn’t tell the rest of the story. The rest of the story is that the judge in the case not only threw the case out, but is going to award very substantial damages against the customer who filed the suit to reimburse the cleaners for legal expenses. Not only that, the fact that there are silly cases like this one doesn’t mean you can conclude there is a crisis across the nation. Citing one case in the United States and bootstrapping that case to a national crisis makes no logical sense if you are being fair.
Mr. Brunell then relies upon discredited and unreliable figures in claiming a national financial disaster from litigation. He relies upon figures created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which is hardly an objective source of information. Big industry funneled through this organization, in a three year period, over a hundred million dollars to promote tort reform and to support the political objectives of big business. His figures come from a source that is hardly an objective bystander or whose so called facts and figures one can trust.
So, what are the facts? Well, the United States Department of Justice study found that the truth is the number of civil damage lawsuits is declining, not increasing. It found that the amounts involved were also decreasing not increasing. The number of jury trials in federal court is also on a sharp decline, except for cases of business suing business. In fact, it is big business whose lawsuits that occupy the largest amounts and the most trial time in our federal courts today. Not some injured person trying to get justice, but one corporation suing another.
If we are going to have a discussion about changes in our civil justice system, it should be based upon honest and reliable information. Our American jury system is too valuable to be attacked by misleading information from biased sources.