Monday, April 26, 2010

Study skews view of courts

A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce study is attempting to cause a stir in some parts of the country over what it calls the national lawsuit climate. It ranks each state based on a dubious set of factors for how friendly a state's legal system is for business.

The report is short on facts and credibility. And even more concerning is the lack of accountability it promotes - the same lack of accountability that pushed our nation into one of the worst economic messes in history.

The annual lawsuit climate rankings by the Institute of Legal Reform, a branch of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, rely only on the opinions of corporate defense attorneys who stand to profit when their corporations are shielded from those they have harmed through negligent behavior.

Corporations represented by the Chamber, such as AIG, the insurance industry and pharmaceutical companies, have gone to great lengths to portray our nation's civil justice system as unfair to them and at the same time wreaking havoc on our nation's economy.

This study is yet another tool in their PR campaign.

This year's study ranks Kentucky 40th in the nation in terms of how "fair" its legal system is for business, yet the study itself is the most blatantly unfair form of spin doctoring one can imagine.

For example, if you read a study showing that Duke University was the most popular sports team in Kentucky, would it affect your opinion if you knew only 10 people had been surveyed, and they were all Duke alumni?

In this survey, only those people who stand to gain from eliminating the protections of our civil justice system were asked whether they thought it should be limited. So you can guess their answers.
Aside from the flawed methodology, those promoting this study have caused so much harm to our nation's economy.

They say they are promoting small business, but in reality, companies like AIG - which alone has given the U.S. Chamber $23 million - are pushing for less accountability through our courts.

That is disturbing since it was their own lack of accountability that got them, and consequently our nation, in so much trouble.
Kentucky's civil justice system should be a fair and balanced way of addressing negligent behavior while encouraging a strong, ethical and accountable business community.

The legal and business community should not be at odds, but instead should be seen as allies. By serving as a watchdog against negligent and bad business behavior, good businesses can thrive and grow Kentucky's economy.
Kentuckians should see this and similar reports for what they truly are: fraudulent efforts by billion-dollar corporations to tilt the table in their favor at the expense of consumers.

If they really want to create a more thriving business community, may we suggest they start by cutting back on their million dollar bonuses and instead invest that money in creating good, safe jobs in states like Kentucky that need them.
Maresa Fawns is executive director of the Kentucky Justice Association, a statewide membership organization comprised mostly of trial lawyers.


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