Too Many Lawsuits?

Think there are too many lawsuits in America? Think they're hampering business and clogging the courts? You've got company. Many of the most powerful corporations in America agree, but with one major exception: While they want to close the courthouse door to you, they use lawsuits and litigation all the time to preserve and protect their own rights. But are those lawsuits frivolous? Some of them are whoppers. Caterpillar, for example, sued Disney over its depiction of bulldozers in the animated movie George of the Jungle 2. It said the bulldozers were portrayed in an overly villainous manner. Johnson and Johnson sued the Red Cross for its use of a red cross as its logo. Yet, both these corporations are members of The Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), which is an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and has as it's sole purpose the restricting of your ability to use the courts to seek compensation for injuries suffered because of their actions.

The American Association for Justice maintains a very informative website exposing the hypocrisy of major corporations and so-called "tort reform" organizations. Here's the link:

Some highlights:

In 2009, Stacy Calderon lost control of her car and caused a three-car collision in Fresno, California. At the time, another woman, also named Stacy Calderon, was at her Placentia, California home, four hours away. The police report mistakenly listed the Stacy from Placentia as the driver of the car that caused the accident. The State Farm Insurance Company sued the wrong Stacy. She provided ample witnesses proving she was nowhere near Fresno at the time of the accident and State Farm had the wrong person. Her proof was good enough for the California DMV, but not State Farm. It continued the lawsuit, forcing the wrong Stacy to spend thousands on attorney fees. When confronted by a local newspaper, State Farm admitted the mistake but still refused to drop the case. State Farm is on the board of the ILR.

In 2007, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, another ILR board member, sued the Red Cross over its use of a red cross to label first aid kits and other items. The red cross - that is, the actually cross of red -- had been amicably shared by Johnson & Johnson and the Red Cross for over a century. Johnson & Johnson decided that one hundred years plus of cooperation had suddenly become meaningless. It now wanted destruction of the first aid kits, punitive damages against the Red Cross and payment for its own legal fees. The Red Cross issued this statement about the lawsuit: "For a multi-billion dollar drug company to claim that the Red Cross violated a criminal statute that was created to protect the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross - simply so that Johnson & Johnson can make more money - is obscene." The judge on the case agreed.

Another corporate backed "tort-reform" group is called The National Chamber Litigation Center, which, while decrying lawsuits by individuals, files and enters into lawsuits more than one hundred times a year. It's President and CEO, Tom Donohue, has stated that he "loves litigation," and that "litigation is one of our most powerful tools for making sure that federal agencies follow the law and are held accountable."

So the next time you hear people bemoaning "all those lawsuits," find out what company or organization backs them. There's a good chance you'll find an entity that files lawsuits all the time, that loves and uses litigation constantly, and that objects to lawsuits only when you, the individual, need to file one.