Contact: Ray De Lorenzi
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AAJ: 2010 Dawning of New “Decade of Corporate Accountability”
Civil justice system centerpiece of need for stronger oversight and accountability of wrongdoers
Washington, DC—With the last ten years marred by a culture of protecting negligent corporations, the worst financial crisis in a generation, and a constant assault on the rights of workers and consumers, the American people will increasingly demand stronger consumer protections and resist big business attempts to undermine the civil justice system, said American Association for Justice (AAJ) President Anthony Tarricone at a press briefing today.
Coming off an era in which corporations – from Enron to AIG – were allowed to trump the interests of everyday Americans, the civil justice system will be the centerpiece of a new “decade of corporate accountability” that will balance the playing field that today tilts too much in favor of powerful corporate interests.
“During the last decade, we saw a dismantling of regulations and our legal system for the benefit of big corporations and to the severe detriment of patients and consumers,” said Tarricone. “Americans simply want safe products, fewer unnecessary injuries and a restoration of checks and balances that give people a fair chance to receive justice. A strong civil justice system is part of this equation, and plays a necessary role in holding wrongdoers accountable.”
AAJ’s legislative agenda and other efforts, for the years to come, will focus not only on corporate accountability but strengthening Americans’ basic legal protections and ensuring all people have a fair chance to receive justice. These issues include:
- Restoring Americans’ access to courts: Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions (Ashcroft v. Iqbal in 2009 and Bell Atlantic v. Twombly in 2007) upended years of established precedent and irrationally raised the bar for Americans seeking justice in employment, discrimination, or other civil claims. These new “pleading standards” mean negligent corporations can escape accountability while weakening Americans’ basic legal protections. Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would restore these standards to their prior precedent.
- Medical Device Safety Act: In February 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Riegel v. Medtronic that manufacturers of certain medical devices have complete immunity from liability, even when the devices are known to be defective and potentially hazardous to consumers. The Medical Device Safety Act (H.R. 1346 / S. 540) would protect patients from dangerous and defective medical devices, and explicitly clarify that federal regulations do not preempt state product liability lawsuits.
- Forced arbitration: Forced arbitration clauses are hidden in the fine print of everything from cell phone, home, credit card and retirement account terms of agreement to employment and nursing home contracts. Just by taking a job or buying a product or service, consumers and employees are forced to give up their right to take their case to court if they are harmed by a corporation. The Arbitration Fairness Act (H.R. 1020 / S. 931) protects Americans from abusive corporate practices by ensuring that the decision to arbitrate be made voluntarily and after the dispute has arisen.
- Protecting patients injured by medical negligence: AAJ made clear during the health care debate that rights of injured patients cannot be bargaining chips. We will continue to advocate for patients who have been injured through no fault of their own and for a reduction in the 98,000 deaths that occur each year because of preventable medical errors.
- Dangerous foreign products: From toxic drywall to pet food laced with rat poisoning, U.S. consumers need additional tools to hold foreign manufacturers accountable for the defective and sometimes dangerous products they sell in the U.S. The Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act (S. 1606) would force foreign manufacturers to play by the same rules as American manufacturers and help consumers seek redress in U.S. courts for injuries or even death caused by dangerous foreign products sold in the United States.