Friday, January 07, 2005

Why the public doesn't understand lawsuits 

I've seen this story about the guy suing "Fear Factor" about 10 times today already, and it's irritating the hell out of me.

The media is part of the reason Bush sounds like he has a point when he talks about "lawsuit abuse." They prop up stories like this, but real tragedies where lawyers step in and save the day -- are rarely worth noting.

The right was all over John Edwards for his big settlements. Look at this page. Note the first case -- Lakey v. Sta-Rite Industries. It was Edwards' most famous. His client, a 12-year-old girl, was disemboweled by a faulty swimming pool drain. By the time Lakey's case came down the pike, there were already as many as 16 other cases just like it, but the company continued to make faulty drains, knowing it was maiming and killing kids. Edwards won a $25-million award in the case. All we heard about in the media was "largest award in North Carolina history." Well, yeah! It was well-deserved! During the campaign, the fact that Edwards won and was right and that the company was indisputably wrong, was drowned out by the noisy right. You think the company got the message? You think they'd get the message if the damages were capped at a level that they could factor in to their cost of doing business, like Bush & Santorum want?

The lawyer-bashers and can't argue the merits of cases like Lakey, so they bury them and -- with the help of the media, which loves a silly story -- push the "Fear Factor"-type cases to advance their agenda.

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