Center for Justice & Democracy fights "tort reform"

Wednesday, January 24, 2001

For Immediate Release:
January 24, 2001

Contact: Joanne Doroshow or Emily Gottlieb
212/267-2801

CENTER FOR JUSTICE & DEMOCRACY FIGHTS "TORT REFORM"

New York, NY -- With the Bush administration threatening to make federal "tort reform" a front burner issue and with many state lawmakers under pressure to do the same, the Center for Justice & Democracy (CJ&D) announced today that it will be "releasing a series of new studies to 'set the record straight' about lawsuits, juries, injured consumers and the attorneys who represent them."

According to CJ&D Executive Director Joanne Doroshow, "CJ&D's campaign is aimed at heading off efforts by state and federal lawmakers to restrict the legal rights of innocent Americans. Outrageous myths and falsehoods propagated by corporate lawbreakers and other wrongdoers have for years been driving the movement to limit injured consumers' rights to go to court. The way to start fighting back is with the truth."

HYPOCRITES OF "TORT REFORM." CJ&D's "MYTHBUSTER!" campaign begins today with the release of Not in My Backyard - Hypocrites of "Tort Reform," a White Paper that examines cases where individuals and corporations have sued sometimes for millions of dollars while at the same time championing damages caps and other severe liability restrictions for others. Included are cases brought by George W. Bush, several lawmakers and a number of corporations.

JURY VERDICTS AND THE MEDIA. Also released today is Reading Between the Headlines - The Media and Jury Verdicts.

The study examines media coverage of civil jury verdicts and finds:

  • Large jury awards are mentioned with such frequency in the print and electronic media that their occurrence is significantly exaggerated.
  • More often than not, articles emphasize the monetary aspect of cases rather than what prompted a jury to make the award. The severity of the harms suffered by plaintiffs and corporate responsibility for those injuries are often buried within the text of news stories, if mentioned at all.
  • Empirical evidence demonstrates that civil juries are competent, responsible and rational, and that their decisions reflect continually changing community attitudes about corporate responsibility and government accountability.
  • Media coverage of jury verdicts has played a significant role in molding the opinions of both the public at large and lawmakers about the civil jury. Over the past 15 years, juror attitudes have shown increasing antagonism toward injury victims, and lawmakers in most states have taken significant power and authority away from civil juries.

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