By Dennis Shields, LawCash Founder and CEO
The leadership of the United States House of Representatives has recently introduced a number of bills which, if passed, would make the American populace less safe, would line the pockets of Big Business, and would put trial attorneys out of business or give them disincentives to continue to fight for justice for the, otherwise voiceless, injured and disadvantaged. Under the guise of self-serving and inaccurate terms like “fairness”, “justice”, and “protection”, Republican lawmakers and chambers of commerce seek to deprive the most vulnerable and needy members of our society of justice, fair recovery, the constitutional right to trial by jury, and the ability to hold wrongdoers and large corporations accountable for their actions.
I’ve spent my entire adult business life trying to help the trial bar protect the public, and I am proud to stand with them now. I urge every American to oppose these dangerous new bills. I started Esquire Bank, the first and only bank to help finance justice and support the trial bar.
For more information and a good summary about these proposed laws, visit the American Association for Justice (AAJ) website. Tellingly, victims, patients, employees, and consumers oppose the newly-introduced legislation, although the legislators claim to be introducing these acts on their behalf. Only corporations and chambers of commerce support the bills; they apparently intend to use the Republican stronghold on the Senate, House, and White House to push these bills which serve corporate interests. But the bills would hurt plaintiffs and victims and help corporations, no matter what they’re called and no matter what their supporters say about them.
It may seem like hyperbole to assert, as I do, that the trial attorneys are “superheroes” protecting the public from the wrongs done by corporations seeking profits. However, it’s not; it’s absolutely true. Anybody who doubts the value of having dedicated, expert advocacy for the public need only think back to life for workers before the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, or all those times the tobacco industry marketed cigarettes as cool, hip, manly, sexy, or American, and said nothing about the known risks of its products, i.e. cancer and death.
Specifically, the new bills include the following:
· H.R. 720, the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act,” which forces mandatory sanction of trial attorneys rather than careful determination of when sanctions might be appropriate,
· H.R. 725, the “Innocent Party Protection Act,” which removes control over state-based cases from states, and protects corporations guilty of wrongdoing rather than innocent parties,
· H.R. 985, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act,” which makes it harder for small, impecunious plaintiffs to band together to bring consumer, worker, or civil rights class actions against corporations.
· H.R. 906, the “Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act,” which enables the asbestos industry to avoid compensation to dying asbestos victims dying of asbestos disease and invades the victims’ right of privacy
· H.R. 732, the “Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act,” which prohibits non-profit organizations and charities from receiving compensation from corporations who harm the public
· H.R. 1215, the “Protecting Access to Care Act,” which would restrict the ability of Americans to be compensated and to hold companies accountable in medical malpractice and dangerous drugs and devices cases, nursing home abuse and death cases, and seeks to eliminate state law’s efficacy and turn these claims over to the federal legislature and court system.
If it seems odd that companies are worried about protecting the access to care of patients, or seek to protect innocent parties, or that Republicans want to expand Federal central government, that’s because these are just pretexts for stripping away the rights of individual, powerless Americans, to advantage the companies’ bottom line. We all must act to preserve the right to the jury system, to maintain the legitimate power of and need for the state courts, trial attorneys, and class action litigation to hold bad actors accountable for creating widespread harm, danger, destruction, and death. Our constitutional right and our safety are at stake.
I am proud to, and as a concerned citizen, must stand with the trial attorneys on the side of justice; we all must raise our voices and be heard, and fight against the bills allegedly seeking to protect those who need protection the most.
For more information:
View this article in the Washington Post, detailing “quiet” sweeping reforms introduced by the Republicans, passing in the House without any discussion on the floor. Even some Republicans object to the lack of transparency.