What "Greedy" Lawyers and "Frivolous" Lawsuits Accomplish

On July, 22, 2014, Public Justice, a group of public interest advocates, published a powerful article entitled, "What 'Greedy' Trial Lawyers And 'Frivolous' Litigations Do."

The article began by pointing out how corporate America loves to criticize trial lawyers because trial lawyers hold them accountable when they engage in dishonest actions such as breaking the law, cheating people, selling defective products, poisoning the air and water, and otherwise placing more importance on maximizing profits over safety and protecting human lives.

Public Justice celebrates trial lawyers and their efforts to bring wrongdoers to justice. The latest examples are demonstrated by this year's finalists for Public Justice's Trial Lawyer of the Year Award, which honors the verdict or settlement that has made the greatest contribution to the public interest in the past year.

Bookout v. Toyota

When thousands of Toyota Camrys would suddenly accelerate, Toyota blamed bad drivers, floor mats and sticky pedals instead of taking responsibility for the real problem: the Camry's electronic throttle system which was poorly designed and failed to conform to industry standards.

In September of 2007, Jean Bookout's Camry suddenly accelerated and crashed, injuring the driver and killing the passenger. This was the first suit against Toyota that tied the unintended acceleration to electronic throttle control problems.

A team of trial lawyers from Alabama and Oklahoma won a $3 million compensatory damages jury verdict. Class actions were subsequently filed across the country and Toyota settled personal injury and wrongful death cases nationwide.

Melton v. General Motors

Brook Melton's 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt suddenly lost power, veered into oncoming traffic, struck another vehicle and rolled into a creek, Melton lost her life. Her parents hired a sole practitioner in Marietta, Georgia who launched an investigation into her death.

The investigation revealed that the cause of the accident was a defective ignition switch, which is now famous across the country. The suit revealed that GM had been aware about the deadly switch long before the accident, and the firm exposed a corporate cover-up and inadequate regulation which lead to a congressional investigation, a large settlement for the victim's family, and GM recalling over 2.5 million cars.

People of California v. Atlantic Richfield

Tens of thousands of California children each year suffer from blood lead levels that exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention threshold, which causes brain damage and developmental disabilities. The scientific and medical communities agree that the primary causes of lead poisoning in children comes from lead paint in their own homes. In 2009, nearly 11,000 children, many low-income, minority children – were poisoned in 10 cities and counties in California.

In 2000, these cities and counties sued several of the nation's largest lead pigment manufacturers for promoting the use of lead paint in homes before it was banned in 1978, even though the dangerous of lead paint had been known since the early 1900s. The lawsuit, People of California v. Atlantic Richfield was a landmark ruling asserting that ConAgra, NL Industries and Sherwin-Williams had created a public nuisance and had to pay $1.15 billion into a state-run abatement fund that would fund inspections and lead paint removal for tens of thousands of homes.

State of New Hampshire v. Hess Corporation, et al.

ExxonMobil and other oil companies were adding MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) to gasoline sold throughout the nation. The oil companies knew that MTBE caused cancer in rodents and that it posed a major threat to New Hampshire's aquifers and groundwater due to the state's sensitive hydrogeology.

Instead of exposing these health and environmental risks to government officials, the oil companies claimed that MTBE was as safe as other gasoline, and continued using the additive.

In effect, over 40,000 private drinking wells in New Hampshire became contaminated with MTBE.

After nearly a decade of pursuing justice in this groundwater contamination case against 23 oil companies, including ExxonMobil, the team won a record-setting $816 million jury verdict, which will go to cleanup costs and paying for testing and monitoring of every private and public drinking water system in New Hampshire.

Taking Risks in the Fight for Justice

The above are only five examples from the past year, but there are thousands more that occur each and every year. We want to give thanks to these lawyers for accomplishing great things and taking huge risks in the pursuit of justice.

While corporate attorneys are paid regardless if they win or lose, trial lawyers are only paid if they succeed at bringing individuals or corporations to justice.

At Abraham & Associates, P.C. we concur with Public Justice: companies who are willing to value profits over people must be held accountable and they must be deterred from committing unethical acts in the future, and that is exactly what trial lawyers and litigation are set to accomplish.

Categories: Personal Injury

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