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Medical Negligence: The Role of America’s Civil Justice System in Protecting Patients’ Rights

Preventable medical errors kill and seriously injure hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. Any discussion of medical negligence that does not involve preventable medical errors ignores this fundamental problem. And while some would prefer to focus on doctors’ insurance premiums, health care costs, or alternative compensation systems – anything other than the negligence itself – reducing medical errors is the best way to address all the related problems. Preventing medical errors will lower health care costs, reduce doctors’ insurance premiums, and protect the health and well-being of patients.

Playing with Safety: Dangerous Toys and the Role of America’s Civil Justice System

Since 1974, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued more than 850 recalls for toy products, many for hazards like magnets, lead and other dangers hidden in our children’s toys.

 Between 2004 and 2008, toy-related injuries increased 12 percent. Also, The CPSC is woefully under-resourced to cope with the flood of new products entering the U.S. marketplace.

The Chamber Litigation Machine: How the Chamber Uses Lawsuits to Keep Americans Out of Court

For years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has led the charge to undermine and destroy America’s civil justice system. The Chamber has spent hundreds of millions of dollars financing efforts to close the courthouse doors to American consumers through massive lobbying campaigns, advertising and bankrolling anti-consumer political candidates. It has its own multimillion dollar affiliate, the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), whose sole mission is to restrict the ability of individuals harmed by negligent corporations to file suit.

Standing Up For Seniors: How the Civil Justice System Protects Elderly Americans

There are many laws and regulations aimed at protecting seniors, yet government agencies, non-profit watchdogs and media organizations consistently report that serious problems exist in our nation’s nursing homes.  

The same is true of insurance companies that mislead and defraud vulnerable seniors. Insurance industry regulators protest that they can do nothing. Even when they do raise their hands, they more often than not strike deals to keep fines to a minimum and settlements secret.

Hazardous to Your Health: How the Civil Justice System Holds Corporate Polluters Accountable

Trial attorneys have long been on the front lines of the environmental movement, opposing corporate plans to wipe out forests, cut down mountain tops, and destroy entire ecosystems.

When corporate acts have resulted in devastation for ecosystems and communities, the initial outcry of politicians and regulators has often died out as time has gone by. However, the attorneys seeking justice for such acts fight on, sometimes over decades and against the most powerful corporations on the planet.

ALEC: Ghostwriting the Law for Corporate America

Few have ever heard of it, but the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is the ultimate smokefilled back room. 

On the surface, ALEC’s membership is mostly comprised of thousands of state legislators. Each pays a nominal membership fee in order to attend ALEC retreats and receive model legislation. ALEC’s corporate contributors, on the other hand, pay a king’s ransom to gain access to legislators and distribute their corporate-crafted legislation.So, while the membership appears to be public sector, the bankroll is almost entirely private sector. In fact, public sector membership dues account for only around one percent of ALEC’s annual revenues.

Driven to Safety: How Litigation Spurred Auto Safety Innovations

Up until the 1960s, car manufacturers were only held liable for defects in construction that resulted in accidents and had largely avoided responsibility for defects in design. Even when a design defect caused a car to burst into flames, manufacturers succeeded in persuading courts that “no duty exists to make an automobile fireproof.”

Manufacturers had a large body of knowledge proving that car design – particularly in regard to steering columns, dashboards, windshields and passenger restraints – was extremely unsafe to car occupants, but did nothing about it. Style was valued over safety. The cost of largely unnecessary styling changes amounted to, at the time, $700 per car, yet the average safety expenditure amounted to just 23 cents. For instance, many manufacturers used chrome enamel dashboards for their aesthetic value, despite evidence that the dashboards commonly refl ected sunlight into drivers’ eyes and blinded them.

They Knew and Failed To

Every day there is another recall or warning of a product that turned out to have design flaws or unexpected problems - a drug with an unanticipated side effect, a toy with a sharp piece that can injure a child, or a popular food product that may have been contaminated in production.

These recalls and warnings are so frequent that consumers are no longer surprised. What would surprise consumers is the fact that sometimes those who are responsible for these dangers know about the problem and do nothing about it. People find it hard to believe that anybody would cover up a product's danger and then market that product to the very people it is likely to kill or injure. Yet, that is exactly what happens time and time again. The following pages contain true stories of corporations that have known their products were dangerous, sometimes deadly, but continued to push them onto unsuspecting consumers.

Tricks of the Trade: How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse and Refuse

Insurers are increasingly using tough tactics against cash-strapped consumers to boost profits, according to a new report that investigates claims data, policies, and news accounts.  

The report details tactics that target policyholders, insurance companies that are engaging in these practices, and what consumers can do to prevent abuses and fight back.  The current economic turmoil, which is greatly affecting the insurance sector, will likely spark insurers to use these tactics to maximize their bottom lines. Learn more here

Get Out of Jail Free: An Historical Perspective of How the Bush Administration Helps Corporations Escape Accountability

In a stealth effort coordinated at the highest levels of the Bush administration, multiple federal agencies were repeatedly ordered to usurp state law and undermine consumer protections, according to documents obtained through repeated FOIA requests by the American Association for Justice (AAJ).

The documents detail how helping corporations escape accountability for dangerous products has been the administration’s top priority. The FOIA documents detail a Bush regulatory strategy called preemption. In short, the Bush administration has decided that federal rules should usurp – or preempt – the rights of states to protect their citizens with stricter safety standards. In turn, consumers can no longer use the state protections when harmed by negligence or misconduct, giving total immunity to corporations instead. Learn more here.

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