Our law firm does not accept retainers of any kind, and neither do we defend any large and powerful corporate clients. We are proud to represent individuals who have suffered some sort of loss and need access to the justice system. We also represent business owners who have a need for our firm’s services because of some other company’s wrongdoing. In most all of the cases we handle our opposition will have very good lawyers, access to experts who will toe the company line and use public relations extremely well. I recently watched the movie Class Action which featured one of my favorite actors, Gene Hackman, who played the part of a trial lawyer in a lawsuit against a powerful Defendant. Something he said near the end of the movie during an intensive discussion in the judge’s chambers got my attention.
The 1991 movie involved a product liability lawsuit in which a corporate decision by a manufacturer resulted in the company’s lawyers destroying a critical report that dealt with a defective design issue. The document destruction was done at the request of the corporate bosses. A large defense firm was involved in keeping the contents of the report out of the hands of the victim’s lawyers and away from the jury. During discovery the defense lawyers dumped thousands of documents packed in hundreds of boxes on Mr. Hackman’s firm. Missing from the documents, however, was the one document that would have proved the product that severely injured the Plaintiff was defective.
At a critical stage of the trial, during a conference in the judge’s chambers, Mr. Hackman reminded the defense lawyers that regardless of the outcome he was on the “right side.” That really made an impression on me. Having dealt with many clients whose claims involved corporate decisions that put profits over safety, I could certainly identify with Mr. Hackman. We have seen on many occasions evidence of a corporate “bean-counter” telling the company’s decision-makers how much it would cost to correct a serious design problem. On all too many occasions, a decision was made by the manufacturer’s bosses to run the risk and put a defective product on the market. In those instances, it was felt by the bosses that it would be cheaper to litigate rather than fix the problem.
Events such as those described in the movie are why we have seen the so-called tort reform movement start up back in the 1980s and continue right up to the present. A takeover of the legislative and judicial branches of government in the United States was an essential part of the tort reformers plan. It was also very important for Corporate America to have great influence in the executive branch. In many states that has become a reality. Because of those successes, many meritorious claims are either not pursued or are lost at some stage of the judicial process. When cases are sent to mediation, the mediator often tells the lawyers representing a victim with a good claim that they had better settle cheaply because even if they win their case, the Alabama Supreme Court will take their verdict away. This makes one realize how important it is to fight to keep our courts open, independent and fair.
The thing that motivates me as a lawyer representing folks who have been injured, or who have lost a loved one because some corporate boss put profits over safety and ran a safety risk by putting a defective product on the market, is that I know that I am “on the right side!” That’s enough to keep me going, and for that reason, I will never give up the fight.
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