ATLA’s attack on reform supporters

by Ted Frank on July 18, 2006

Evan Schaeffer was very excited by the fact that ATLA made its Trial magazine attack on reform freely available on line, so I clicked over to see what the fuss was. The first story I looked at was Justinian Lane’s “Corporate wolves in victims’ clothing,” which featured, among various baseless assertions and screeds about high executive salaries, the following strawman:

And the next time someone brings up Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case, ask why a $2 million lawsuit over third-degree burns to a woman’s genitals is frivolous, but a $5 billion lawsuit over Donald Trump’s ego isn’t.

Fascinating. What fictional reformer supports Donald Trump’s lawsuit? Certainly not the main author of this site, who has repeatedly scoffed at it. Where’s the hypocrisy? (More on Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case, which was frivolous, but is hardly the only reason for supporting reform.) Needless to say, I’m not impressed. Lane’s claim that proposed reforms wouldn’t affect Trump’s case is absolutely false; reforms such as anti-SLAPP laws, loser-pays, procedural streamlining, and limiting forum-shopping would all cabin the ability of a Trump to attempt to use litigation to intimidate critics.

Lane asks why reformers argue that “the king’s-ransom salaries ‘earned’ by corporate executives aren’t passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, but that the costs of the tort system are.” There’s a difference, of course: a consumer can object to high CEO salaries by refusing to invest in a corporation’s stock or to purchase its products or services. But a consumer who buys a car can’t opt out of the huge expenses trial attorneys have added to every motor vehicle in America—$500 for every vehicle sold in America. Tom LaSorda, the CEO of Chrysler, doesn’t make $500 for every vehicle, even if one finds his salary objectionable for some reason. But as long as Lane is criticizing the “hypocrisy” of reformers, one wonders if he’ll turn the same searching eye complaining about high salaries to the multi-millionaire trial attorneys he lauds who, unlike the executives, make their money by destroying wealth and jobs rather than creating wealth and jobs.

{ 1 comment }

1 Deoxy 07.18.06 at 4:12 pm

Amazing as it is, lawyers actually outperform CEOs and other abusive execs on the attraction of public hatred.

And here’s why: Companies CHOOSE to throw their money away with execs (which many find objectionable, as it often is a complete waste); almost no one CHOOSES to pay a lawyer any more – they are forced to, as almost all plaintiff work is done on commission, meaning that defendants pay for their own defense AND pay for the plaintiff lawyer if they lose.

There is no hypocrisy is taking offense at someone stealing $10 from you, even if you just finished throwing a $100 into a fire. One was a choice, the other was a crime.

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