The legal "reforms" advocated in Congress
only cut off the rights of consumers injured or killed by faulty products.
They do nothing to stop the truly ridiculous lawsuits filed each
year by businesses against each other.
Want the Courts to Themselves
Contract and property cases -- most of which involve
businesses -- comprise more than one-third of all civil cases in state courts.
Domestic relations cases were the next most frequent type of proceeding,
representing nearly 25 percent of all civil cases. By comparison, product
liability cases accounted for only 0.21 percent of all civil cases. (National Center for State Courts, 1995).
Business cases account for 47 percent of all punitive
damage awards. In contrast, only 4.4 percent and 2 percent of punitive damage
awards are due to product liability and medical malpractice cases, respectively.
(Rand Institute for Civil Justice,
Businesses suing each other over contracts comprised
nearly half of all federal court cases filed between 1985 and 1991. (The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1993.)
The Frivolous Things Businesses Do
the maker of the luncheon meat SPAM, sued Jim Henson Productions to stop
the creator of the Muppets from calling a character in a new movie "Spa'am."
Hormel claimed that the "Spa'am" character represented an unclean,
grotesque boar calling into question the purity and quality of its meats.
After a full trial, a federal court judge recently rejected Hormel's claims.
Hormel appealed, but also lost.
Hormel's case would have been unaffected by
the product liability bill. But a Hormel worker injured by a defective
meat cutting machine might be left without any rights.
snacks division sued Proctor & Gamble in November 1995 after Proctor
& Gamble claimed that its Pringle's Right Crisp potato chips were "more
nutritious" than Frito-Lay's chips.
This lawsuit would be unaffected by the product
liability bill. But a Frito-Lay worker killed by a defective forklift or
other machine might be left without any rights.
Scott Paper's Canadian division sued Proctor & Gamble in 1995, alleging that Proctor & Gamble had misled consumers about the absorptive power of Bounty paper
towels by advertising it as the "quicker-picker-upper."
The product liability bill would not affect
Scott Paper's case. But a lumberjack injured by a defective chainsaw while
cutting down the tree used to make paper towels might be left without any
Used with permission from
The Association of Trial
Lawyers of America. All rights reserved.