Hypocrisy is a sad underlying theme among many attempts to use legislation to take away legal rights for those injured due to medical malpractice. Relying on public relations spin or confusing, misleading jargon, many of the biggest “tort reform” groups spend million on lobbying efforts to sell the idea that full and fair access to the civil justice system is somehow the cause of so-many problems: rising healthcare costs, fleeing doctors, increased taxes, and more.
If you believed even half the arguments made by some opposed to equal justice under the law, one might get the impression that the number one threat to the country was lawsuits filed by greedy exploiters.
Of course, advocates have pointed out again and again, virtually all of those claims are nonsensical. Instead, tort reform arguments are mostly just a cover for large interests to avoid being held fully accountable for their mistakes that harm others. It is perfectly natural for businesses to seek profit. But it is wholly unacceptable to do it in a destructive ways that hurts others and skirts legal fairness.
Do as I Say, Not as I Do
To get an idea of what many of these large corporate interests fighting for “tort reform” really think, it is best to look at their actions instead of their words. It does not take much searching before discovering that they seem perfectly happy using the civil justice system when their own interests are at stake. It is a classic example of legal hypocrisy–bashing the system when others seek fairness but exploiting it for one’s own purposes.
Recently, the President of the American Association for Justice penned a letter which touches on one recent case where the corporate groups appear eager to use the courts themselves.
As explained in the letter, one of the largest groups seeking to take away consumer legal rights, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), filed an amicus brief challenging a federal group charged to protect workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), from changing language to a safety protocol known as the “Hazard Communication Standard.” The Standard in question refers to labeling requirements for hazardous materials.
Essentially, the ATRA is arguing that any new rules “preempt” common law rules regarding safety with these materials, such as a duty to warn. In short, the tort reform front group is trying to lower the safety standards, immunizing those who may cause harm by violating these safety principles.
Tort Reform – Interwoven Principles
While it may seem bizarre that somewhat arcane preemption rules regarding dangerous chemicals may have any impact on medical malpractice lawsuits, it is important to keep in mind the basic principles at stake. The arguments made by the ATRA in this brief are similar to those brought forward in many arguments seeking to lower safety standards in all settings–including the hospital–at least for the purpose of allowing those harmed by poor care to seek full legal recovery.
For that reason all of us who believe in equal access to the justice system must stand arm in arm against all attempts to take away legal rights in any setting.
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