Multinational Monitor

MAR 2003
VOL 24 No. 3


The Medical Malpractice Insurance Crisis Hoax
by Jamie Court

De-Globalizing Justice: The Corporate Campaign to Strip Foreign Victims of Corporate-Induced Human Rights Violations of the Right to Sue in U.S. Courts
by Kenny Bruno

Corporate Astroturf and Civil Justice: The Corporations Behind "Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse"
by Carl Deal and Joanne Doroshow


Justice for the Injured: Defending the Civil Justice System from the Corporate "Tort Deform" Movement
an interview with Joanne Doroshow


Letters to the Editor

Behind the Lines

Buying the Judiciary

The Front
Canadians Come Clean - Phone Booth Revolving Door

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Clear Channel: United We Stand

Names In the News


The Corporate Drive for Legal Immunity

Multinational Monitor

The Medical Malpractice Insurance Crisis Hoax

By Jamie Court

Two year old Steven Olsen did not know how much his sight and cerebral functions were worth until he lost them. The arbitrary price, $250,000, was set by the California legislature in 1975 for all victims of medical negligence. The law prevents a jury from awarding victims more for pain and suffering, and other "non-economic" losses.

In January, President Bush announced he wanted to adopt California's little known standard for the nation. A liability cap, he claimed, would address a supposed national crisis of escalating malpractice insurance premiums so severe that doctors in several states have gone on strike in protest. "This problem will be solved by getting at the source of the problem, which are the frivolous lawsuits," President Bush announced to an audience of doctors in Scranton, Pennsylvania. "Look at states which have done a good job of helping the patient out. California is one example. More than 25 years ago, they passed a law that caps damages from malpractice suits, and the law has worked."

Two weeks later, in his State of the Union speech, Bush declared, "Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care, and many parts of America are losing fine doctors. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. I urge the Congress to pass medical liability reform." MORE>>

De-Globalizing Justice: The Corporate Campaign to Strip Foreign Victims of Corporate-Induced Human Rights Violations of the Right to Sue in U.S. Courts

The first U.S. Congress passed the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) in 1789, in order to allow cases involving violations of the law of nations, or international law, to be heard in federal court...

More recently, victims have filed ATCA suits against corporations they allege have been complicit in egregious human rights abuses. The case that has proceeded the furthest is the lawsuit against Unocal, filed in 1996, with Jane Doe I as one of the plaintiffs. In September 2002, a three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled that the case could proceed to trial, because the plaintiffs had presented evidence that Unocal knowingly provided substantial assistance to the military in its commission of forced labor, murder and rape. The court held that Unocal could be held liable under international aiding and abetting standards that date back to the Nuremberg Tribunals. The full appeals court of the Ninth Circuit recently decided to re-hear the case.

Approximately two dozen other ATCA cases alleging corporate complicity in human rights violations have been filed. None have gone to trial. Several have been thrown out of court for failure to adequately allege a violation of international law or because the courts believed that an adequate forum existed in the nation in which the abuses occurred. From the victims' point of view, ATCA has hardly been a cakewalk to justice. Yet ATCA gives hope to victims that any U.S. corporation complicit in grave human rights abuses anywhere in the world can be held accountable in U.S. courts. MORE>>

Corporate Astroturf and Civil Justice:
The Corporations Behind “Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse”

By Carl Deal and Joanne Doroshow

For the last two decades, insurance companies, manufacturers of dangerous products and chemicals, the tobacco industry and other major industries have been engaged in an effort to roll back the U.S. civil justice system. In nearly every state and in Congress, corporations and their insurers have waged a relentless campaign to change the laws that give sick and injured consumers the ability to hold their offenders responsible for the injuries they cause.

While most of their legislative initiatives have been stymied at the federal level -- where corporations have sought national laws to override the rights that states grant to injured parties -- the corporate coalition has had enormous success in the states themselves. Going state by state, they have succeeded in obtaining liability caps, elimination of various causes of action, and procedural rules making it much harder to sue wrongdoers. MORE>>


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