02/18/2005: The Denny v The Molly
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R- IL) made the following statement:
"I'm pleased to join my colleagues here today who support taking a historic first step towards breaking one of the main shackles holding back our economy and America's workforce -- lawsuit abuse."For the last decade, the Republican Congress has worked to end out of control lawsuits. Today is the day we will pass common- sense legislation and put an end to Class Action Lawsuit abuse. I particularly want to praise the efforts of House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner for his relentless work. Without his stewardship, I don't think this achievement would have become a reality."I'm from Illinois -- the Land of Lincoln -- where downstate Madison County has the dubious distinction as a personal injury lawyer's paradise. There aren't palm trees or sandy beaches there. Instead, Madison County, Illinois, is home to very warm courtrooms where frivolous lawsuits are filed virtually everyday."
This is the exact topic of a Molly Ivins column about what she "affectionately refers to as Tort Deform. For those of you without benefit of a legal education, this is just right of "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" as defined by our most illustrious Constitution.
Molly has "captured the essence" of the Tort reform debate...and incongruities of the the "stated purpose" of all this hoopla versus who and what will really be affected by these measures. Molly writes in part:
"On Feb. 2, President Bush again referred to "frivolous asbestos claims."
Thus, the word that the U.S. Senate voted for "tort deform" last week came just a few days after the news that seven current and former executives of W.R. Grace & Co. were indicted on criminal charges of conspiring to hide from their workers and the public that the ore mined by the company near Libby, Mont., was a form of toxic asbestos.
Hundreds of miners, their family members and townsfolk in Libby have died, and at least 1,200 are sick from breathing the air polluted by the mine. Since the ore was shipped all over the country and was used as insulation in millions of homes, the total health effects are incalculable.
The executives and the company were indicted on 10 counts of conspiracy, knowing endangerment, obstruction of justice and wire fraud. W.R. Grace & Co. "categorically denies any criminal wrongdoing," a Grace spokesman said.
The indictments were based on tens of thousands of internal communications among the top health, marketing and legal managers at Grace about how to conceal the danger of asbestos in both the ore from the Libby mine and the products that were made from it. Their memos include discussion of how to keep investigators from studying the health of the miners, how to keep safety warnings off their products and how to hide the hazards of working with asbestos ore.
....W.R. Grace filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy...but a U.S. Justice Department intervened in a bankruptcy proceeding for the first time ever, alleging that before Grace asked for Chapter 11, it concealed money in new companies it bought...in a "fraudulent transfer" of money to protect itself from civil suits.
Bush's policy changes, once again, come as a timely reminder of what the tort legal system is designed to deter or punish.
Karen on 02.18.05 @ 05:07 AM CST