For years George Bush has been used by the big bosses in Corporate America in their relentless and never-ending attacks on the civil court system. Also under attack has been the right to trial by jury, a right that is guaranteed to every American citizen by the U.S. Constitution. All of this started when Bush became governor of Texas in 1995. At that time, Karl Rove contrived a so-called legislative emergency in Texas dealing with what he labeled “frivolous lawsuits.” That’s when the term “tort reform” first came on the scene in a big way. Governor Bush then pushed a series of bills through the Texas Legislature that made it virtually impossible for Texas victims to hold wrongdoers accountable in the civil courts of that state.
When Rove and his gang got through with their dirty work in Texas they took their campaign to Washington. They realized that if a man like George Bush could be elected governor of a state like Texas, he also could be sold on the national stage. After electing their man President of the United States, the tort reform campaign moved in a big way to the national stage.
Once in office, President Bush continued his assault on the court system using the full power of his office. He pushed the Rove version of tort reform continuously for eight long and painful years. During his two terms, President Bush never let up in his efforts to protect corporate wrongdoers and bash their victims. The Bush Administration successfully pushed the federal version of Tort Reform. As a result, we have seen more unsafe products being put on the market than ever before and consumer protections drastically reduced.
There have been a series of new laws enacted by Congress at the request of the Bush gang that have badly hurt folks in this country. The following are just a few of them and unfortunately most folks don’t even know some are on the books.
• FISA Amendment Act (2008). This gives retroactive lawsuit immunity to telecom companies.
• Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (2005). This law affords drug makers total immunity for death or injury caused by administration or use of vaccines when a public health emergency has been declared.
• Protection of Lawful Commence In Arms Act (2005). This law strips away the legal right of gun violence victims and their families, as well as cities and counties, to seek redress against reckless and negligent gun dealers, manufacturers, distributors and trade associations.
• Class Action Fairness Act (2005). This law forces most state law-based class action cases, including product liability, worker protection, consumer fraud and civil rights suits, into federal court.
• Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act (2002). This law shields manufacturers, distributors and providers of “qualified anti-terrorism technology” from most lawsuits. They can’t be held liable for punitive damages, can’t face any additional damages beyond their insurance coverage and can’t be sued in state courts.
• Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act Amendments (2001). These amendments restrict liability for claims arising from the September 11th terrorist-related plane crashes against an air carrier, air craft manufacturer, airport sponsor or person with a property interest in the World Trade Center to the limits of their liability insurance coverage.
In addition to the laws that were passed by Congress, the Bush gang quietly put administrative agencies into positions of power never before imagined. This allowed the agencies to wipe out or render meaningless the individual legal rights of individuals. The full-scale attempt to use rulemaking by these agencies to preempt state tort law, if successful, would ban state lawsuits regardless of how bad the conduct of a wrongdoer might be. We have written on the federal preemption issue on numerous occasions in prior issues of the Report. The Bush gang has changed at least 50 federal agency rules for the sole purpose of blocking lawsuits by ordinary citizens who are injured and damaged by defective products. The following are a few examples of what the Bush gang has done:
• Drug Labeling. Consumers injured or killed by a defective or dangerous drug can’t sue the manufacturer if the medication label has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
• Mattress Flammability. Consumers injured or killed in a mattress-related fire can’t sue the manufacturer if it complied with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s mattress-flammability standard.
• Railroad Safety. Anyone injured or killed by a rail car carrying hazardous materials catching fire can’t sue the manufacturer if the rail car met the federal construction standard.
• Seatbelts. Passengers injured or killed because they had no seatbelt can’t sue the carmaker if it installed the number of seatbelts mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Bush presidency has left Americans in a country with more risks and fewer protections. Many are asking if President-elect Obama can undo the damage that the Bush gang has done and will he really work to protect victims’ rights? I am convinced that he can and will! But it’s very clear that the Obama Administration and the new Congress will have to clean up a lot of messes left by President Bush and his gang.
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