Ralph Nader’s scheme for a Connecticut tort law museum

by Walter Olson on August 20, 2013

We have occasionally posted (here, here, and here) about the lawyer advocate’s longstanding plan for a museum in his home town of Winsted, Connecticut, dedicated to the praise and glorification of the American tort law system. The project has now dragged on fitfully through many years of economic stagnation, unexpectedly costly environmental remediation, changes of venue, and community suspicion (“a lot of empty promises”, one resident puts it), which may function as some kind of metaphor, no? [Torrington Register Citizen, Connecticut Law Tribune]


1 wfjag 08.20.13 at 12:23 pm

Other than appearing clueless during a SNL skit when he was given a blow-up party doll to hold, can you tell me anything he has done that can be counted as a positive contribution?

2 Citizen Zen 08.20.13 at 2:06 pm

Let’s give credit where credit is due:
Thank you for so many things, Ralph
Ralph Nader’s Record of Accomplishments
Instrumental in the passing of the following legislation:
National Automobile and Highway Traffic Safety Act (1965)
Clean Water Act (1968)
Clean Air Act (1970)
Co-Op Bank Bill (1978)
Law establishing Environmental Protection Agency (1970)
Consumer Product Safety Act
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
Mine Health and Safety Act
Whistleblower Protection Act
Medical Devices safety
Nuclear power safety
Mobile home safety
Consumer credit disclosure law
Pension protection law
Funeral home cost disclosure law
Tire safety & grading disclosure law
Wholesome Meat Act
Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act
Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act
Wholesome Poultry Product Act
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1970
Safe Water Drinking Act
Freedom of Information Act
National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act
Founded or sponsored the following organizations:
American Antitrust Institute
Appleseed Foundation
Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
Aviation Consumer Action Project
Buyers Up
Capitol Hill News Service Center for Concerned Engineering
Center for Auto Safety
Center for Insurance Research
Center for Justice and Democracy
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Center for the study of Responsive Law – 1969
Center for Women Policy Studies
Citizen Action Group
Citizen Advocacy Center
Citizen Utility Boards
Citizen Works
Clean Water Action Project
Clearinghouse for Professional Responsibility
Congress Project
Congress Watch
Congressional Accountability Project
Connecticut Citizen Action Group
Consumer Project on Technology
Corporate Accountability Research Group
Critical Mass Energy Project
Democracy Rising
Disability Rights Center
Equal Justice Foundation
Essential Information
FANS (Fight to Advance the Nation’s Sports)
Fisherman’s Clear Water Action Group
Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights
Freedom of Information Clearinghouse
Global Trade Watch
Government Purchasing Project
Health Research Group
Litigation Group
Multinational Monitor
National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest
National Insurance Consumer Organization
Ohio Public Interest Action Group
Organization for Competitive Markets
Professional Drivers (PROD)
Professionals for Auto Safety
Public Citizen
Pension Rights Center
Princeton Project 55
PROD – truck safety
Public Citizen’s Visitor’s Center
Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGS)
Resource Consumption Alliance (conserve trees) 1004
Retired Professionals Action Group
Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest
Tax Reform Research Group
Telecommunications Research and Action Center

3 Citizen Zen 08.20.13 at 2:10 pm

…sad to say, since 1980, the republicans have done everything
to reverse these gains… and the democrats went along with it…

4 jdgalt 08.20.13 at 8:21 pm

Original post: That’s not a metaphor, it’s a direct example of attorneys in action. (If you don’t get it, read the chapter on Legalman’s Goal-Line Defense in Robert Ringer’s Winning Through Intimidation.)

@Citizen Zen: Most of your list seem to me examples of unnecessary nanny-statism, not things to be proud of even were they constitutional.

5 Citizen Zen 08.20.13 at 11:07 pm

nanny state? when every US car company was building cars that
they KNEW were killing people unnecessarily? Nanny state?
IMHO, one of the few legitimate functions of government is to
protect the environment and the people from the effects of the
greed of corporations…

but 33 years after reagan, and the dems going along with it, who
would know…?

6 ZBerk 08.22.13 at 12:25 am

The free market would have corrected for ::cough:: the pinto ::cough:: as soon as, if not quicker than, government regulation. However, the key to that working is an effective tort system. The current trend is to minimize tort liability while over-reaching on federal regulation; however allowing massive tort-suits would be much more effective in dissuading cost-benefit product marketing (ie. the pinto). Manufacturers faced with potentially crippling tort judgements for reckless behavior are much more quickly dissuaded than jumping through regulatory hoops (which the pinto did). In short, modern tort liability (depending on state) has the ability to be much more effective than any regulation.

7 Walter Olson 08.22.13 at 5:44 am

As the search function of this site will quickly confirm, the received view of the Ford Pinto case as some sort of obvious vindication of American tort law is in fact much more controversial than one might assume. The classic refutation, by the prominent torts scholar Gary Schwartz, is here (“The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case”). On ZBerk’s wider argument, an actual free market would enforce contractual terms (including liability disclaimers) reached between auto sellers and consumers. In the absence of a willingness to enforce those, what we have is not a free market, but a prescriptive arrangement of imposed results premised on what I have called the invisible-fist theory, in which legal combat is assumed to result in outcomes optimal to society. That the actual workings of American tort liability do not always live up to the hopeful results of the invisible-fist theory is a topic I have tackled once or twice before in my writing.

The actual Nader is more closely linked to the Chevy Corvair case than to that of the Ford Pinto, but there has been less controversial discussion of the Corvair case. I mention one of the reasons for that here.

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