I just received my monthly e-mail from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC), imploring me to cast my vote in this month’s "Most Ridiculous Lawsuit Poll." In the "About Us" section of its website, you can find the following description of the organization:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. More than 96% of U.S. Chamber members are small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.
They represent the interests of businesses big and small and have been grinding away at the interests and rights of the individual consumer for more than a century. The most effective tool the individual has to fend off the efforts of such corporate interests is the civil justice system. While there is most often a huge disparity in the amount of resources an individual can bring to bear against corporate monoliths when they or a family member have been injured or killed by a defective product or the like (think Toyota and BP), the courthouse door is the little guy’s best shot at a more level playing field.
The USCC works tirelessly to tilt that playing field further against individuals or, better yet, to remove the playing field altogether. To further this goal, the USCC formed its own in-house law firm, the National Litigation Chamber Center, in the 1970s and here is how that organization is described:
The National Chamber Litigation Center (NCLC) – the public-policy law firm of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America – plays a major role in shaping public policy on important legal questions of national concern to American business while achieving long-range improvements in the legal system. Since its inception in 1977, the Litigation Center has participated in more than 1,500 cases as the voice of business in the courts.
Two notable phrases there: "important legal questions of national concern to American business" and the "voice of business in the courts." No voice there for you or me; just a voice for those with the ability to write big checks to litigate "important issues" that I guarantee will not be in your best interest or mine.
The USCC is also behind the cleverly named Institute for Legal Reform. This is the real attack dog trumpeting the "rights" of business over those of the rest of us. The commentary on this affiliate of the USCC could go on and on but suffice it to say, one main prong of their attack is misinformation about the so-called frivolous lawsuit. Here is the crux of the propaganda:
Personal injury lawsuits and other tort claims represent a $40 billion per year industry built upon the abuse and misuse of America’s legal system by contingency-fee lawyers. While these trial lawyers (or plaintiffs’ lawyers or personal injury lawyers) have long claimed to champion “the little guy,” their injured and uninjured plaintiffs are often drawn into a legal process that primarily just expands trial lawyers’ finances and political power.
What a tired argument and one that takes us back to the basics. In contingency personal injury cases, the attorney takes the risk with the client that there will be a recovery to help the injured or their family members put their lives back together after an injury or death. The attorney commits time and advances all of the costs to put a case together which can easily hit mid-to high five figures and into six figures if the case is complicated. If no recovery, no one benefits – the injured have no resources to move forward and the attorney who put his or her time and money on the line with that of the client is out the investment of both.
Now we have the bottom line question: who wants to throw their time and money into a "frivolous lawsuit"?
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.