From a “pants lawsuit” to a right-wing talking point

By Martin Bosworth

You’re probably familiar with the case of Roy Pearson vs. the Chung cleaners over a pair of damaged pants that were allegedly worth $54 million. Here’s a recap for those who don’t know what the current state of affairs is.

The Chungs now owe over $100,000 in legal costs from the suit, which Pearson is refusing to pay pending appeal. So there are fundraisers being held to pay for their expenses. Sounds great, right? Perfectly noble.

But if you look closer, all’s not what it seems.

The major Chung fundraiser is being underwritten by the Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest and fervently anti-consumer lobby groups around. If you’re wondering why it is that every contract you sign–from cell phone contracts to homeowner agreements – has a clause in it that prevents you from suing for damages and being forced into expensive one-on-one negotiations with the other side, well, you can thank the Chamber for their efforts.

Under the guise of wanting to rein in “frivolous lawsuits” and the like, the Chamber and its astroturf allies have done everything in their power to restrict, limit, or outright destroy the right of consumers to sue for fraud, malpractice, or damages:

Malpractice “reforms” are only the thin end of the wedge for a much bigger agenda. Lined up behind the doctors are most of the Fortune 500, a formidable coalition led by insurance and tobacco companies, far-right think tanks and dozens of well-heeled pressure groups, many of them fronts for corporate interests. Buoyed by the conservative tide flowing through the country, this coalition has stepped up the pressure to enact damage caps and other measures. Before unleashing its campaign ads, the Chamber of Commerce had already poured $100 million into an antilawsuit lobbying and publicity blitz that claimed product liability suits add a “tort tax” of $809 per person every year to the cost of goods and services. Stories highlighting the lawsuit abuse “problem” have become a staple in Reader’s Digest and the newsweeklies.

Think about this when you hear about pet food recalls, data breaches, asbestos leaks, birth control failures–these are things that can literally harm and kill thousands, and without the power to seek redress in a court of law, people are essentially left to just shut up and take it. Every time you bitch and moan about “frivolous lawsuits,” you need to ask yourself what you would do when it happens to you.

Luckily, both that LiveJournal audience and the readers of DCist were savvy enough to see that the Chungs’ plight–which is legitimate and undeserved by any standard–is now being converted into a right-wing talking point, and the CoC fundraiser is being underwritten by unsavory elements like local D.C. right-wing rag The Examiner and conservative blog

Extreme cases like Roy Pearson’s mania should not be used as an excuse to dismantle the rights of Americans to demand accountability from business. It’s not enough to simply say you’ll shop elsewhere. Not when your pets die, your babies are harmed, when you’re at risk for cancer, or you lose your life savings to data thieves–or any one of a million other wrongs that would not be redressed if we couldn’t get our day in court.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not point out that not only are trial lawyers a huge bastion of support for Democratic campaigns, but that John Edwards himself was a successful trial lawyer before running for the Senate. Anything that would limit Democratic power bases is something the GOP goes for–so attacking Dem supporters using “tort reform” is a major part of the playbook.

So if you want to support the Chungs, don’t let yourself be fooled into handing over money to an organization devoted to making your life miserable. Give to them directly, or if you’re in D.C., stop by and throw some business their way.

12 replies »

  1. Pingback:
  2. From the neocon point of view, this thing is more than just about capping lawsuits. There really is a method to the madness. The real issue is make the United States a one-party country by utterly and completely destroying any vestiges of the old Democratic Party and replace it with a de facto puppet that no one would want to join.

    For example, tort lawyers tend to be Democrats. Their level of income affords them the luxury of supporting the Democratic Party. The way to control their financial contributions is to cut off their source of income.

    Thus, the whole ruse about how medical malpractice suits were driving up healthcare costs. The result was a cap on awards to cut the wages of lawyers. The added perk was that it also rewarded Republican supporters such as doctors and insurance executives.

    Likewise, labor unions have been a traditional ally of Democratic candidates. To control unions, a movement began to export jobs – many of them requiring technical skills. Then, to further depress the domestic wage scale, the powers that be opened the borders to a flood of illegal immigrants even as blue-collar job hemorrhaged. Democrats were afraid to say anything for fear of being labeled racists.

    Again, the goal was to cripple the Democratic Party, by any means necessary, regardless of collateral damage to working families. After all, in the neocon mind, it was the fault of working families for not having enough children.

    Year in and year out, schoolteachers have been the most powerful lobby in most state capitols. They tend to be more formidable than either doctors or lawyers. They also tend to support Democratic candidates for office with votes and dollars.

    To neutralize the political power of teachers, Republicans needed to gut the public school system. They did so with No Child Left Behind. In addition to the frustration of meeting ever changing standards, the funding of mandated testing has cut into teacher salary and benefits. In turn, this took teachers out of a proactive political mode and put them into a personal survival mode with no time to visit state capitols to put pressure of legislators.

    Now, the plan is to extend No Child Left Behind into higher education because college professors tend to be liberal and vote for Democrats. Additionally, because college graduates are apt to be more liberal than high school graduates, deep cuts were made in grants so that college students would have to borrow money from private lenders and, then, after graduating, work in a global market with a depressed wage scale to pay back student loans rather than become politically active pests.

    Furthermore, the disincentives put in place against working class children achieving a higher education serve to protect children of the wealthy from competition from undesirables with too many academic credentials. It also makes the riffraff easier to control since they don’t know enough in a to become a threat to the status quo.

    As always, since the Civil War, Democrats have been painted as the “party of treason.” Only now, the rhetoric is “soft-on” crime, terrorism, or whoever the enemy of the week happens to be. The tort cap is merely an attempt to portray the Democratic Party as having betrayed the American people by not protecting them from lawyers.

    The ultimate goal has been to repeal any trace of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives. Democrats have been complacent in the plan. Welfare was all but repealed under Bill Clinton. Since then, George W. Bush has tried his best to get Social Security to disappear from the face of the earth.

    So far, the plan has worked quite well because too many Democrats are still living in the 1960s. Their “flower children” attitude is an anachronism from another age. They are little more than Peter Pans frozen in time.

    All the talk about gay rights is playing right into the hands of the neocons. Even in their wildest dreams, the neocons could not have invented a more perfect foil with which to do battle. Consequently, both literally and figuratively, Democrats are being taken to the cleaners!

  3. Russ,

    Thanks for the link, man. Much appreciated. I’m shocked you hadn’t heard about the “pants lawsuit,” actually–it was rivaling Paris Hilton’s hard time as the most heavily covered news story with the least substance.