Thursday, February 17, 2005

Thalidomide Babies For Bush

Sometime today, the House is going to pass the "Class Action Fairness Act of 2005." A better title would probably be the "Giving a Big Gift Back to Our Generous Corporate Donors Act of 2005." The bill will take decisions about corporate malfeasance and negligence out of the hands of juries and put them into the hands of Federal judges, some two-thirds of which have been appointed by Republican presidents.

This in the Bushellian dialect is known as "Tort Reform." Here's a clue: Whenever you see the word "reform" in a piece of legislation, you know that somebody is lining their pockets, and that somebody probably isn't you.

This bill was opposed by the AARP, the American Cancer Society, Public Citizen, and 11 state attorneys general. Fuckin' terrorists, the lot of them.

So the fine people who brought us Agent Orange, Asbestos, the Dalkon Shield, tobacco, and Viox can now sleep a little easier at night. In most cases, the companies producing these products knew of the health risks but decided to bury that information and continue selling them. How do we know? Because eventually they got sued by consumers. In some cases, as with the Dalkon Shield, it was punitive damages from such suits that caused companies to recall their products--precisely the kind of damages Federal courts are likely to limit.

Is the current system perfect? Hardly. It makes for a lot of fat lawyers. (Personally, I like my lawyers skinny and mean.) But if the goal were reducing the amount of money attorneys take home, it would be easy to do that and still hold corporations responsible.

Here's my modest proposal (not that anyone's asked). Let's cap attorneys fees for large settlements (say over $10 million) at 20%. Let's also remove the legal shield that protects corporate officers from their customers, so CEOs would become personally liable for their decisions. So when we sue the fascist who decided to place Joe Camel billboards next to elementary schools so he can recruit a new generation of smokers, he loses his houses, his cars, his yacht, his extensive stock holdings, his country club membership. What the hell, let's take his mistress too.

Maybe that might make Corporate America think twice before making decisions that kill people, just so they can stuff more money in their pockets.

Just my humble opinion, of course.



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