Blogging for Justice

PA. Justices Void Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a recent case, found a way to get around some forced arbitration clauses. Forced arbitration clauses can be found within any contract - from cell phones to credit card contracts, to nursing home admission forms. These clauses take away a consumer's right to hold a company accountable in court if they break the law or cheat them.

When Food Companies Put Profits Ahead of Your Safety

Getting dinner ready in my house can be a somewhat complicated business. One of my kids is trying to be a vegan, another wants to eat gluten and lactose-free, another is allergic to strawberries, and I myself am supposed to be watching my calories. So there’s a lot to consider when preparing a family meal, and that’s before we get to everyone’s particular likes and dislikes. The one thing I always took for granted though, was the safety of our food.

Sure, I knew that meats should be cooked to a certain temperature, but otherwise I believed that the food we put on the table was safe to eat. But the more I’ve worked on the issue of food safety, the more I’ve realized that’s not always the case. The food we buy frequently presents danger for our families. Danger that even the most knowledgeable and hygienic of cooks cannot avoid.

Approximately 48 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illnesses every year; 128,000 are hospitalized; and 3,000 die, costing the nation approximately $77 billion.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even when consumers are made sick by food, the vast majority of cases are never specifically identified - 81 percent of foodborne illnesses remain the product of unknown agents. The vast majority of incidences of what we know colloquially as the stomach flu are actually cases of foodborne illness.

Today AAJ is releasing a new report that shows the scope of this enormous problem, and demonstrates how the civil justice system plays a key roll as consumers’ last line of defense. The civil justice system has proven to be the most effective – and sometimes the only – mechanism for deterring negligent behavior.

The report outlines several instances in which food companies knowingly let Americans eat food contaminated with deadly pathogens. Take, for example, the 2009 peanut scandal, in which executives at the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) knew for at least three years that they had a salmonella problem but put profits ahead of safety and continued to ship their products to unsuspecting consumers. At least ten of those consumers died. The court case would eventually reveal that when employees told PCA President Stewart Parnell of the contamination, he replied “Just ship it,” and in another instance, “turn them loose.” Those products were incorporated into hundreds of products under a wide variety of labels.

The civil justice system has frequently uncovered this kind of pattern of corporations putting profits over safety. This past spring, Blue Bell took its ice cream off grocery shelves for months after three people died from listeria contamination. We now know that Blue Bell was aware that its factories had a listeria problem two years ago in 2013, but did not stop production or issue a recall.

Remarkably, most processed food manufacturing facilities and farms are not regularly visited by federal inspectors. Federal regulators are overwhelmed, and their focus falls on identifying outbreaks after they happen. The civil justice system works to prevent contamination before it happens. During litigation, attorneys frequently use discovery to compel producers, suppliers, buyers, and auditors to disclose inside information, which helps to trace how food was allowed to become contaminated – and to pinpoint the negligent parties. This power stands in stark contrast to that of regulators, who are often restricted to asking the food company for nothing more than a voluntary recall with no admission of negligence.

For food manufacturers, knowing they can be held accountable in court provides significant incentive to improve safety and end dangerous practices. Even the FDA’s highest-ranking food-safety official, Michael Taylor, has described litigation as “a central element of accountability.”

We may not think about the safety of our food regularly, but we are putting an immense trust in the companies that produce what we eat. Too often, they put profits ahead of safety, and we suffer the consequences.

Please learn more by reading our full report!

78,000 Consumers to CFPB: End Forced Arbitration

Yesterday, Republicans in Congress voted to obstruct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s authority to act on a critical consumer issue – ending forced arbitration.

TV reporter crashes secret conference where corporate lobbyists write state laws

State legislators meeting with their counterparts from other states to discuss policy ideas – that all sounds well and good, right? But what if corporate lobbyists are paying for the whole event, and are inside the private meeting, and are even writing the draft bills that the legislators are discussing?

Congress Acts to End Forced Arbitration

Did you make a call on your cell phone today?  Or buy something using your credit card?  Most Americans engage in these activities every day without realizing that they could be giving up their legal rights – specifically, their right to hold the cell phone company or the bank accountable in court if they cheat customers or violate their privacy.  It may sound crazy, but when you bought that cell phone or opened that credit card, the corporation likely buried a forced arbitration clause in the fine print of the agreement.

23,485 petitioners tell FDA: Finish the generic drug safety labeling rule now!

With your help, 23,485 people have signed our petition to the FDA, calling on the agency to promptly finalize its rule that would enable up-to-date safety warnings on generic drugs.

Giving corporations a free pass for not protecting your data

The House of Representatives recently considered the “Protecting Cyber Networks Act” and the “National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015.” While their main purpose is to prevent cybersecurity crime, they expose everyday people to identity theft because of companies that don’t practice safe cybersecurity.

Make Your Voice Heard on Generic Drug Safety

Here’s a problem: Generic drug manufacturers are not allowed to independently update their labels to warn of newly discovered side-effects. And they can’t be held accountable if their drugs injure or kill Americans. It’s a generic drug safety loophole.

National Asbestos Awareness Week: Remembering Lives Lost and Renewing the Fight for Justice

The week marks the 11th Annual National Asbestos Awareness Week, as designated by the United States Senate with the bipartisan, unanimous passage of Senate Resolution 125. The American Association for Justice applauds our lawmakers and advocates who created this important event, and we welcome this opportunity to honor and remember the countless lives lost to asbestos diseases. Further, our observance of Asbestos Awareness Week renews our commitment to seek justice and accountability from the corporations that knowingly poisoned and killed Americans.

Revoke Corporations' License to Steal. Stop Forced Arbitration.

Corporations from sketchy payday lenders to shrewd Wall Street banks have found a way to cheat, steal, and defraud Americans without ever being held accountable for their actions.


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