Joe Biden and the trial lawyers redux

by Ted Frank on August 27, 2008

Add the August 28 LA Times to the list of newspapers looking askance at Joe Biden and his family’s cozy relationship to judicial-hellhole asbestos attorneys, in this case Madison County’s SimmonsCooper. (Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger, “Business dealings of Biden family could be problematic for him”, Aug. 28). Unfortunately, the article somehow manages to miss the rationale for creating the trust fund, which was the degree to which so much asbestos litigation in the country is abusive.

Update: also, Am Law Daily.

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September 30 roundup
09.30.08 at 12:51 pm

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1 John Gallo 10.01.08 at 8:47 pm

This is a classic example of the yellow journalism that has been so pervasive in today’s media. This is nothing but the same old rhetoric set forth by the right that has been poisoning the minds of voters. The fact of the matter is that Senator Biden, even before any alleged involvement with law firms, has been a champion for victims of asbestos diseases and their families. Asbestos has literally killed tens of thousands of Americans; tearing apart families along the way. This is real. Countless people have lost their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, and friends due to asbestos related diseases that were 100% preventable. The companies using asbestos in their products and in their factories put the value of a dollar above that of a human life. I urge you to visit http://reports.ewg.org/reports/asbestos/facts/fact3.php for a glimpse into the corporate knowledge that existed. You will be horrified. The following excerpt from a letter of one asbestos company pretty much sums up the asbestos industry’s attitude: “…if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products, why not die from it.” Sen. Biden has always, and will continue, to fight for these victims’ rights to seek legal recourse.

Who cares where Sen. Biden gets his campaign contributions? This article implies that his vote has somehow been “bought,” though the reality is quite the opposite. Check his voting record prior to 2004. (As an aside, this alleged impropriety pales in comparison to the skeletons in the campaign financing closets of Messrs. Bush and McCain, as well as to the nepotism that we have seen run rampant over the years).

One of the founding principles of our legal system is to provide a fair forum in which an aggrieved party (be it an individual, company, small business, etc.) can have its day in court. Sen. Biden has sought to preserve this right, whereas big business backers (i.e. Mr. Bush and Sen. Specter) have done all they can to legislatively absolve their business cohorts for the sins of their past. Articles such as this, as well as publications such as the Madison County record (cited to as an authority in this article; which, not surprisingly, is owned by a giant national business lobbying group) seek to further an agenda that has one goal: protect big business at the expense of the individual– put a dollar above a life, place profit above the suffering of the working man who suffered one of the most heinous deaths imaginable. Along the way, these publications attempt to smear some muck on the faces of those such as Sen. Biden– those that are willing to uphold the moral and legal fabric for which our nation should strive.

Personally, I’d much rather have someone in who has the best interests of my wife, my father, my mother, my children, and my friends in mind; rather than the interests of the companies that killed them. Frankly, I don’t care how that someone got there.

2 Todd Rogers 10.01.08 at 9:44 pm

I just spent a few minutes at ewg.org. It’s worth noting that the board of directors is made up of what I will politely call “the usual suspects.” I also ran a few brief searches on “John Gallo.” Among the results were a plaintiff’s attorney and also a Cleveland-based union organizer. I have no idea if this contributor is either. Now, I may be stretching here. But I also noticed that among the funders of ewg were a cast of characters frequently noted for, how shall I put it – progressive-leaning opinions and interests: Streisand Fund, San Francisco Fund, and The Wallace Global Fund. When I read a quote such as, “This is nothing but the same old rhetoric set forth by the right that has been poisoning the minds of voters” and couple this together with about ten minutes of superficial investigating, I swiftly conclude that the input shared by Mr. Gallo is not only disingenuous, but frankly, it both begs the question and also has the distinct odor found exclusively on the south end of a male bovine. Bravo, sir. You seem to have a sharp pen (keyboard) on these matters. How have you benefitted, financially, from asbestos litigation?

3 John Gallo 10.01.08 at 11:07 pm

It is a pretty big leap to assume that I have financially benefited from asbestos litigation. In fact, I lost both my grandfather and my uncle to mesothelioma. No lawsuits were filed. No financial gain was realized by myself or my family. The company that both worked for filed for bankruptcy (though it still, to this day, is an active company, turns a profit and pays its officers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year). I watched them die a horrible death, suffocating from cancerous fluid building up in their lungs, due to a poison that was KNOWN by the company to cause cancer well before they worked there.

How, exactly, are my comments “disingenuous”? Just because you say so? Because you don’t like what you hear?

Does the fact that EWG funders may be (gasp) “progressive thinkers” have ANY bearing on the documents indicating corporate knowledge? I’m fairly certain those documents exist regardless of whose website they may be displayed on.

Oddly enough, your reply is very similar to the recent smear campaign on Sen. Biden– it picks out certain topics, attacks them in an irrelevant manner, with irrelevant support, and then does some name-calling. Bravo to you, sir.

4 Ted 10.02.08 at 1:57 am

If anyone has questions about the tactics engaged in by SimmonsCooper in the process of holding up legitimate businesses who have had nothing to do with asbestos for hundreds of millions of dollars, one is welcome to explore the archives of Overlawyered and Point of Law for our coverage of asbestos litigation shenanigans in Madison County. It’s worth noting that the deep-pocket defendants in these cases are not the bad actors identified in the EWG reports, as illegitimate as those reports are.

5 Walter Olson 10.02.08 at 9:57 am

For more on the provenance of those EWG reports, check here (not-easily-found acknowledgment of “the financial, intellectual and material support of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA)” for the effort).

As long-term readers of this site know, asbestos litigation has expanded in concentric rounds, starting with gravely injured plaintiffs and then expanding to include large numbers of others who are unimpaired or who are fitted out with fraudulent diagnoses, and starting with defendants whose indifference to safety two or more generations ago has been widely reviled and expanding to include many others whose basic role is to furnish a peripheral deep pocket. Though great efforts have been made (e.g., by ATLA/AAJ through EWG) to promote the view that manufacturers knew everything about the risks while other relevant players knew nothing, the truth is, unsurprisingly, a good bit more complicated; I touch on a few of the complications (and only a few of them) in my Reason piece last year on government and product risk.

6 Todd Rogers 10.02.08 at 12:00 pm

I hope this doesn’t morph the thread in to a critique on Joe Biden. Convincing the audience that the message is informative as opposed to persuasive is a highly effective and advanced rhetoric technique. When I first visited EWG having neither heard of them nor been formally exposed to their endeavors, I was almost inclined to think these guys are kind of Ok. It reminds me of the Environmental Defense Fund guys who knocked on my door asking for a donation which would, as they put it, help explore for and develop affordable and sustainable energy resources for everyone. Tricky. They didn’t mention or volunteer any details which were not as palatable or as neatly packaged. Nevertheless, I peeled the onion a little bit and found that these guys (EWG’rs) have a taste revenue stream that keeps them living at their present standards. Like any flourishing entity, they will do or say anything and enlist the services of anyone who will help sustain that livelihood. Thus, when it becomes readily apparent that EWG, for example, has a vested interest in continued litigation, I’m inclined to believe that the message submitted by one of its soldiers is just not sincere, whether or not that messenger lost family members or not (my sympathies on the losses). I recall a group of people making claims that we should not listen to Bush or Cheney because they were in bed with Big-Oil and Big-(re)Construction. But, I guess it’s ok to listen to listen to Big-Litigation because after all, they’re really just in it for the little guy, right?

7 John Gallo 10.02.08 at 8:39 pm

Ted, very interesting government / product risk piece. This covers one segment of the asbestos debate. I don’t necessarily agree with some of what you say, but respect it nonetheless as an intelligent, well thought out essay.

Todd, you have given a classic “attack the medium, not the message” response. You have chosen one portion of my post to attack (which, if you took the time to actually READ it, cited to EWG for the sole purpose that it is a website that hosts the documents themselves). I did not, and do not, endorse EWG. I did not support whatever it is they say. Frankly, I had not even heard of EWG until I started looking for some of these documents online. As such, I can hardly be considered a “soldier” of that group. I simply included the link for others to view the documents. You, however, have attempted to misdirect my post into a controversy over EWG. Get with the program- this is not an EWG issue. The website has the documents- that’s all my inclusion of that link was there for. If you have a meaningful response to the content of my message (which, at this point, seems doubtful), I would welcome it. Since you mentioned “insincerity,” it is your sympathies that are clearly insincere. I don’t want, or need them.

8 Todd Rogers 10.03.08 at 9:09 am

“This is nothing but the same old rhetoric set forth by the right that has been poisoning the minds of voters…”[is a] “classic attack the medium, not the message[.]“

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