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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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The Definition of Tort Reform Hypocrisy? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the corporate lobbying group, that, for years, has sought to unconstitutionally limit a citizen's right to sue and collect damages from corporate wrongdoers, has filed a "friend of the court" brief in a lawsuit currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals in Washington.

You are familiar with the Chamber, aren't you? This is the pro-corporate group that screams "lawsuit abuse" every time a citizen sues a corporation for damages. So, if this group is filing a friend of the court brief in a lawsuit, it must be a pretty serious lawsuit, right? It wasn't one of those representative "lawsuit abuse" suits, was it? I couldn't be a "frivolous lawsuit", because the Chamber hates those, right? So, what's the lawsuit about, you ask?

The Chamber filed its brief in support of the tobacco industry (one of the industries that provides back-door funding of the Chamber's "tort reform" initiatives) and against the Food and Drug Administration (in other words, the Federal Government), arguing that the government has "no legitimate authority to take space on a tobacco company’s packaging or advertising to persuade consumers not to buy the product".

The government is planning to require graphic new warning labels on packages of cigarette, sometime this year. The most graphic labels include an autopsy photo of a smoker (former smoker?) and an x-ray of a diseased lung. The cigarette industry filed the lawsuit because the labels will cost them millions and because the labels are more prominent than their own branding. This, they say, constitutes a violation of their free speech. The government argues, essentially, that public safety and smoking danger warnings trump manufacturers' free speech.

Does anyone deny, anymore, that cigarettes are a dangerous product? Even those of us who do not smoke are at risk from the ingestion of second hand smoke. It is pretty clear that the government is correct and will prevail in a balance test between public safety and corporate wrongdoer free speech. So, why would the cigarette industry file the lawsuit? And why would the Chamber back the lawsuit? It is because they wish to delay, for as long as possible, the placement of the new, graphic, warning labels. And why do they want to do this? Because having to place them will cost millions and having their customers see them may cause a few to reconsider whether they want to continue using their dangerous product. The labels may prevent some teenager or pre-teen from taking up this filthy, dangerous habit. To the Chamber and its dangerous and polluting corporate clients, corporate profit is the only thing that matters; public safety is an inconvenience.

Can you think of anything more hypocritical than this lawsuit and the U.S. Chamber's support of it? The goverment (you, the taxpayer) has to spend millions in taxpayer dollars defending it. What a waste of taxpayer money and government time, just to buy time to save a few years profits for a corporate polluter, perhaps the most serious health hazard on the planet. The Chamber is constantly railing against "lawsuit abuse" (a campaign funded, in part, by the tobacco industry), but this one is not "frivolous"? A producer of an acknowledged dangerous product files a lawsuit against the government for trying to graphically warn the public that the product is grossly unsafe and the Chamber backs this lawsuit but attacks those filed by citizens to address and punish corporate wrongdoing? This is the same Chamber that says when a citizen sues a corporate wrongdoer for the serious harm suffered by the citizen, that citizen is guilty of "lawsuit abuse". This organization has zero credibility when it comes to this issue. The public should repudiate the Chamber and any candidate it supports, by its voice and its vote. As corporate lackey and tort reform hypocrite, John Stossel, would say: "Give me a break"!

Mark M. Bello is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation where he is instrumental in providing cash flow solutions and consulting when necessity of life lawsuit funding is needed during litigation. Mr. Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and 13 years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the litigation funding industry. He is recognized as an expert in this field by ExpertPages.com and ALM Experts. Mr. Bello is a sustaining and Justice PAC member of the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Member of the American and Michigan Bar Associations, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Member of InjuryBoard, out-of-state member of the Mississippi Association for Justice and a business associate of the Florida Justice Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association and the Consumer Attorneys of California. His articles have appeared in FindLaw, The West Reporter, The Safety Report, Plaintiff Magazine, Advocate Magazine, and other fine legal publications.