Forthcoming U.S. Chamber ‘Lawsuit Climate' Report a ‘Phony'? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Forthcoming U.S. Chamber ‘Lawsuit Climate' Report a ‘Phony'?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "Institute for Legal Reform" plans to release a report Wednesday ranking Mississippi as the 48th worst "legal climate" in the country. In response to "Lawsuit Climate 2008: Ranking the States,", the Mississippi trial-attorney group, the Mississippi Association for Justice, released the following statement today, headlined the "U.S. Chamber's Phony 'Rankings' Serve Extreme Corporate Agenda." The statement, e-mailed to the JFP, follows verbatim.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today released its phony report that claims to rank the best and worst state legal systems in America. The Mississippi Association for Justice obtained a copy in advance of the U.S. Chamber's formal release tomorrow.

"This latest propaganda is further proof that the U.S. Chamber serves at the behest of elite corporate insiders," said Joey Diaz, President of the Mississippi Association for Justice. "The U.S. Chamber's goal is to make sure people can't get justice in the courtroom, especially against the corporations that finance this front group." The ILR's 30-person board is composed of drug, chemical, and insurance corporations with combined 2007 revenues of $1.4 trillion.

Here is what's wrong with this report:

* Only corporate defense lawyers from companies earning $100 million or more were surveyed. No local attorneys, judges, or media were surveyed.
* The methodology has already been debunked. The U.S. Chamber's own pollster admitted to Copley News Service in 2004 that there is no way to measure the fairness of a state's legal system.
* In 2006, the U.S. Chamber's CEO and the same pollster confessed to the Charleston Gazette that only a fraction of corporate defense lawyers knew anything about West Virginia's courts, even though they ranked poorly at 49th.
* There is no margin of error or evidence the "rankings" are statistically valid. The U.S. Chamber lists multiple tables pretending to detail the methodology without actually revealing the response rate or accuracy of its poll. The report also lists 17 states as "priority" states in the interview, which did not include Mississippi.

"The U.S. Chamber contends that giant corporations should get a free pass for their negligence or misconduct," said Diaz. "MAJ will fight to hold powerful corporations or front groups like the U.S. Chamber accountable when they seek to evade responsibility."

For more details on the U.S. Chamber's past efforts in Mississippi, see the JFP article, "Hoodwinked! Did the U.S. Chamber pull a fast one on Mississippi?" (Sept. 16, 2003), Face-Off: The Battle for Tort Reform" (May 25, 2004), "Tort Reform: Myths and Realities" (May 25, 2004) and "The Reality of Tort Reform" (Oct. 31, 2007)

Previous Comments

ID
118840
Comment

Here's the Chamber's initial press release announcing the announcement. The last sentence is priceless: U.S. Chamber to Release 2008 Ranking of States' Lawsuit Climates VIDEO FEEDS: Wednesday, April 23 First Feed: 10:00 - 10:15 a.m. EDT Second Feed: 1:00 - 1:15 p.m. EDT On Wednesday, April 23, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue will release Lawsuit Climate 2008: Ranking the States, an annual assessment of state legal systems conducted by Harris Interactive in cooperation with the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). Florida will rank as having one of the worst state legal systems -- and Miami-Dade will rank among the ten least fair and reasonable lawsuit environments in the country. A separate survey of Florida business owners' attitudes on lawsuit abuse problems will also be released. Now in its seventh year, the study is based on a survey of nearly 957 senior attorneys at America's largest employers. The study ranks the 50 states in order of best court systems to worst, and includes a report card for each state. Attorneys were asked to evaluate up to five states in which they were "very" or "somewhat familiar" with that state's litigation environment. Survey respondents assigned each state a letter grade for each of 12 different factors affecting the states' tort liability system, ranging from the overall treatment of tort and contract litigation to judges' competence and impartiality. The study is the preeminent standard by which businesses, policymakers and the media judge the lawsuit climate of states.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-22T17:59:11-06:00
ID
118841
Comment

Doesn't this at least put a few arrows in the quiver of someone who might point out that Tort Reform didn't solve the problem?

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2008-04-22T18:11:37-06:00
ID
118844
Comment

Indeed. I also wonder if the state's media will continue their pitiful "analysis" (read: regurgitation) of what the U.S. Chamber says. When I did my 2003 Hoodwinked story, I was shocked and appalled at how poorly the state's media, especially The Clarion-Ledger, covered this issue, even pushing the sound bites on behalf of the tort-reformers. It was wacky, and my first indication of what their so-called investigative reporting is really like. Of course, Congress' General Accounting Office found pretty much the same thing, blaming media in states including Mississippi for the misinformation that had been put out by the U.S. Chamber, et al., about the "judicial hellholes." The U.S. Chamber coming out now and whining about Mississippi being so bad, after they lobbied so hard for reforms to supposedly "fix" the problem back then, reminds me of the Ledger endorsing Bush for a second term so he could, uh, fix the problems he created. If it doesn't work the first time, you don't go back down the same road, guys.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-22T18:50:50-06:00
ID
118851
Comment

Here's a national release from the American Association for Justice (have I mentioned that I hate that new vague name for the Trial Lawyers Association?) that goes into much more detail than the Mississippi one. Take a read. You don't have to like trial lawyers (I like some and not others, kind of like the rest of society) to realize that they are raising important questions in response to the U.S. Chamber.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-22T19:49:23-06:00
ID
118853
Comment

Also, check out this non-partisan Factcheck.org entry about the U.S. Chamber grossly misrepresenting a study about "lawsuit abuse" last year in television ads. They do have balls, but one hopes the climate of the country is becoming such that they can't just convince people of this stuff by throwing it out there. And that includes the media. I remember a prominent Mississippi journalist saying to me at the end of Barbour's big tort-reform session in 2004 that the capitol press corps had really screwed the pooch on tort-reform coverage (and those may have been the reporter's exact words). Let's hope they don't do the same thing all over again, as the U.S. Chamber tries to build election issues for the fall elections.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-22T19:53:44-06:00
ID
118855
Comment

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-04-22T20:02:44-06:00
ID
118867
Comment

The U.S. Chamber officially released the report today, as promised. Pat yourselves on the back for being able to read it here yesterday. ;-) So what do they want now from Mississippi? Should we all just agree that we will never, ever, never sue a corporation or a doctor, no matter what they do to us? Right. They'll just self-regulate. Right.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-04-23T11:22:36-06:00
ID
118871
Comment

I knew from the beginning that this was a sham. But I have to give the pro-tort reformers credit: they really knew how to pull the wool over people's eyes. If you're proposing legislation designed to protect big business, the people won't go for it. So, they muddied the playground by making it seem like the justice system is run amok with all these frivolous lawsuits and that the average Joe is being hurt by the process. Sure, there are a few who abuse the system, but I also think the courts do a good job in filtering them out. Not everyone is suing McDonald's over a scalding hot cup of coffee or suing a cable company for making them fat (like what a man in Wisconsin did a few years ago). If a man was killed in an accident due to, say, faulty tires, can we honestly put a price tag on his life? What about any children left behind? What about a spouse left behind to pick up the pieces? Can that company look his family in the eye and say that his life is worth only X amount of dollars? After all, life goes on and the bills and house payments still have to be made. Some kind of justice, huh?

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-04-23T12:31:52-06:00
ID
118878
Comment

I take it these guys are like the Institute for Highway Safety, which proved both the Ford Pinto and Chevy Trucks were "unsafe".

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-04-23T16:19:09-06:00

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