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One of the largest corporate trade groups has been plotting to limit its responsibility to injured workers and consumers.  The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has been meeting in San Diego to plot strategies to limit recoveries to the people these companies injure and kill.

Why would they do this?  One speaker at the convention put it succinctly: “We’re here because we want to make some money.”

The “tort reform” movement started in the 1980s and, at that time, centered around the Big Tobacco issues.  Big Tobacco marketing firms created the phony lawsuit crisis as a first line of defense against smoking-based product liability lawsuits.  The goal of the tobacco industry was to make the lawyers representing injured people even more despised than the tobacco industry.  The project was successful in large part due to the influence of phony grass roots groups like ATRA and the Institute for Legal Reform.

These astroturf coalitions typically have some form of “citizens against lawsuit abuse” attached to their name.  But each of these groups are bankrolled by a coalition of the largest corporations in the world.  For example, members of the Institute for Legal Reform include:

  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of America
  • ExxonMobil
  • Chevron
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Dow Chemical
  • State Farm Insurance
  • Honeywell

When you’re bankrolled by giant multi-billion dollar corporations, it’s laughable to claim you’re also protecting the interests of small business.  The entire goal of the campaign is to increase corporate profit at the expense of injured people.  These groups believe that corporations should be above the law and never held accountable.

Our founding fathers included the 7th Amendment in our Bill of Rights for a reason.  Are you for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights or are you not?

You cannot simply pick and choose the constitutional protections you’re willing to uphold as if these fundamental protections are some sort of entree in a buffet line.

The Founders understood that we, as a society, must take responsibility when we wrong someone.  If we are not accountable for our actions, then society – read “taxpayers” – will pay for the wrongdoer’s transgressions and provide care for the victims.  When tort “reform” bails out irresponsible individuals and corporations, taxpayers end up with the bill.  Why should taxpayers be forced not only give up a fundamental right, but also bail out negligent people or irresponsible corporations?

Constitutional rights should not be attacked, demeaned, or trivialized for the political gain of an isolated lobbying group. Constitutional rights are the cornerstone of our society and, as Missouri’s founders explicitly said, should remain inviolate.

These corporations are out to subvert fundamental constitutional protections for their own profit.  As they said, “We’re here because we want to make some money.”

Isn’t that noble of them.

© Copyright 2014 Brett A. Emison

Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter.

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