Tort Reform
Backed by corporate heavy weights, tort reform threatens our right to a jury trial. They have poured billions of dollars into a propaganda war vilifying the citizen jury system.

Americans have always loved to cheer on the underdog. In our political system, the courts remain the only arena where the common citizen can take on corporate bad actors and hold them accountable. So why recent decades seen a flurry of tort reform legislation? And what does it mean for the average American? Though specific legislation may vary, tort reform generally seeks to limit an individual's right to file a lawsuit, make it more difficult to obtain a trial by jury, and to limit the amount of damages awarded to the injured party.

For thirty years, "tort reform" has been the battle cry of corporate America. Major companies like Philip Morris, Dow Chemical, Exxon, General Electric, Aetna, Geico, and State Farm funnel millions of dollars every year into ATRA (American Tort Reform Association), CALA (Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse) and other groups bent on undercutting our constitutional civil justice system. These groups, along with corporate-funded think tanks like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, have erected an entire rhetoric surrounding the myth of a “litigation crisis” in America.

In recent years, for instance, the "tort reform" lobby introduced legislation to limit the legal rights of veterans, dockworkers and  others exposed to dangerous asbestos. Never mind that the asbestos industry hid the dangers of asbestos from their workers for decades and are now, in an effort to shift blame and avoid accountability, claiming they need more "transparency" within the system they created. The proposal will force injured or dying victims and their families to jump through a number of expensive and time-consuming hoops before being allowed to move forward with a claim in state court. People suffering from fatal asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, do not have extra time or money to spare, and aim of asbestos defendants is to exploit that fact.

Below are some of the common myths perpetuated by tort reform groups:

Myth: “Litigation happy” trial lawyers are clogging the courts with “frivolous” lawsuits.
Reality: In California, the number of civil lawsuits has plummeted by more than 42% during the past decade. The same goes nationwide: The Department of Justice performed a study of civil trials in state courts and found that the number of civil trials dropped by 21%.

Myth: “Runaway jurors” in “judicial hellholes” are awarding excessive damages.
Reality: Data released by the Justice Department's BJS shows that in state courts, the median jury verdict in all tort suits was $43,000 in 2005 – a 40% drop from $72,000 in 1992.

CAOC supports honest business people. Unfortunately, some major corporations would like to see the individual's access to the civil justice system restricted. Join CAOC in the fight to preserve our civil justice system.

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