America needs more lawsuits. That’s the message hundreds of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers from across the country are taking to Capitol Hill this week as they lobby Congress to make it easier to bring more lawsuits.
It isn’t surprising. The plaintiffs’ bar has been chomping at the bit since last November’s elections. “We are going to get things done,” declared the treasurer of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America at the time (they’ve since changed their name to the “American Association for Justice.”).
One thing that you can say for the plaintiffs’ trial lawyers association, they haven’t disappointed their members. They’ve been working hard. No bill has been too big or too small not to try to slip in a liability-expanding provision.
Passing the farm bill? Invalidate arbitration agreements in meat packer and producer contracts, so that more business disputes become lawsuits.
Or, better yet, why don’t we effectively outlaw arbitration in all contracts so that the only realistic way to resolve disputes is with a lawsuit.
Reauthorizing Food and Drug Administration funding? Perfect opportunity to curtail the federal government’s uniform drug labeling powers and allow for fifty different sets drug labeling laws – and while they’re at it open the door to thousands of state lawsuits for years to come.
Or how about a bill funding the war on terror? Why don’t we allow each state to enact its own set of security laws and regulations? The more sets of confusing and conflicting government regulations, the more the likelihood of lawsuits.
At every turn, the plaintiffs’ trial lawyers are looking to cash in on Capitol Hill. They’ve bragged to their membership that their political donations helped to elect this Congress. Now they want a return favor, asking for plaintiffs’ trial lawyer earmarks that give them the ability to bring more lawsuits.
But when they come knocking on Congress’ door, our elected officials should remember that 81 percent of American voters think there are too many lawsuits in this country. And 74 percent of voters think that lawyers benefit most from lawsuits, while only four percent believe the victims (the people that these trial lawyers claim to represent) get the most benefit.
So when the trial lawyers come storming into Congressional offices this week purporting to speak for all Americans, Members of Congress should ask themselves whether their constituents really want more lawsuits. I think the answer is no.
Lisa A. Rickard serves as president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), where she provides strategic leadership to ILR's comprehensive program aimed at changing the legal culture that has resulted in our nation's litigation explosion.
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