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The Trial Lawyers Aren't Crying Uncle


"How business trounced the trial lawyers" (Cover Story, Jan. 8) fails to properly acknowledge the devastating impact that the assault on the nation's court system has had on the American public.

Many victims can no longer hold wrongdoers accountable for negligence, get the truth about how their injuries occurred, or be assured that the negligent corporation will change its ways to avoid similar incidents in the future. And in many cases, a key incentive for corporate responsibility has been dismantled.

Proponents of civil justice restrictions have spent billions on their misinformation campaign spreading nonsense that individuals seeking justice through the courts are destroying the economy, flooding the landscape with frivolous lawsuits, and undermining corporate largesse. No evidence exists to support any of these scurrilous claims. The article suggests the battle is over. Far from it.

Jon Haber

Chief Executive Officer

American Association for Justice

Washington, D.C.

The title of your article misses the fundamental point in the tort reform battle: It is not a battle between trial lawyers and business but rather a battle between consumers and business.

It is a fundamental American principle that corporations should be accountable to consumers for mistakes; our civil justice system used to enforce that ideal. The insurance industry and large corporations have engaged in a prolonged and, as your article correctly points out, largely victorious assault against that bedrock principle. Calling it tort reform and using trial lawyers as a punching bag is an effective marketing strategy that obscures the reality.

Our civil justice system is supposed to make businesses act responsibly by ensuring that they are accountable. By keeping businesses on their toes, the consumer wins. The immunity of tort reform leads to cutting corners and hiding the dangers some products pose. The next time you run this article entitle it: "How Big Business Trounced the American Consumer."

Andrew M. Abraham

Board of Governors

Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers

Boston

The claim that the trial lawyers "have been trounced" is part of a strategy perfected by the ancient Greeks. The Trojans bought the story. We hope the business community will not.

The plaintiff trial lawyers are the most disciplined and richly funded special interest group in this country. They will remain a threat to the civil justice system—here and elsewhere—as long as there is big money in the lawsuit business.

Texas has reformed its laws, but attempts to "loophole" the reforms continue, especially forum-shopping strategies seeking venue in one of several Texas counties where lawyers, judges, and juries are notoriously open to manipulation. These counties not only victimize any business or individual unlucky enough to be dragged into their courtrooms; they also degrade local economies and erode public trust in the civil justice system.

Hugh Rice Kelly

General Counsel

Texans for Lawsuit Reform

Houston

Although otherwise intriguing, Steven Hofman's "A medicare intervention" (Outside Shot, Jan. 8) suffers from an opening miscue that Economics 101 attempts to forestall. When a society becomes willing to pay more for something, society sometimes gets more of it. But this result is hardly an economic truism. Equally plausible is the result in which society spends more only to end up getting the same amount, as when unit prices rise without affecting the available quantity. Much avoidable confusion about such demand and supply elasticities has plagued health-care debate, to say nothing of bedeviling freshman economics students.

Thomas D. Hopkins

Professor of Economics

Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester, N.Y.

"Decoding Alzheimer's" (Special Report, Jan. 8) is a good first step toward explaining some of the complexities of Alzheimer's research. Unfortunately, you wrote about Alzheimer's as a single disease, and didn't address the growing understanding among researchers that it may be multiple diseases with multiple causes.

Further strides toward understanding, preventing, and treating this class of devastating illnesses will be made as better knowledge of those multiple causes is gained. This approach will enable physicians to better diagnose subtypes of Alzheimer's and to prescribe treatments based on that individualized diagnosis.

Mona Johnson

Largo, Fla.

Science is virtually absent in Natural Causes, reviewed in "Modern snake oil?" (Books, Jan.8). The author instead relies primarily on fantastic isolated incidents to falsely imply these tragic cases represent the experience of more than 150 million health-conscious Americans who take safe, beneficial dietary supplements every year. This safety record is the result of conscientious producers and manufacturers, coupled with appropriate regulation by the FDA.

In an attempt to sell books, the author cobbled together personal opinion and selective interpretation of events and regulatory history. BusinessWeek owes its readers greater due diligence.

Steve Mister

President and CEO

Council for Responsible Nutrition

Washington, D.C.


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