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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Trial Lawyers Make Playgrounds Safer; What Does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Do to Improve Safety?

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What child doesn’t love playgrounds? They are part of all of our childhood memories. But, schools and parks have a duty to the public to use safe equipment and provide safe locations for the placement of this playground equipment. Each year, more than 200,000 kids are treated in emergency rooms from playground related injuries. The more serious injuries involve falls on hard surfaces, head entrapment, and strangulation by entanglement. Most injuries resulted from design or maintenance defects and negligence.

Recently, a school district in Cabell County, West Virginia made the decision to remove swing sets from all school playgrounds because it could not afford potential lawsuits. According to Cabell County Schools, Superintendant, William Smith, “We’re disabling our swings to keep us out of the courtroom. Economically, school districts are really watching their budgets closely.” This decision was spurred from two lawsuits filed by the same parent, but involved two different children. In both cases, the plaintiff argued that the school playground did not meet national safety standards because it failed to provide an adequate layer of mulch around the equipment to pad falls. Ironically, even though one accident involved monkey bars, there are no plans to remove them. The reason it is easy to keep sufficient mulch around monkey bars because the area is small.

One of the phony "citizens group" that is really the alter-ego of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said this is a sad story of “lawsuit abuse”. While it is sad that children may lose their playground, it is a bald faced lie to suggest that this is due to “lawsuit abuse”. Tort reformers wrongly blame lawsuits for inherently unsafe or defective equipment, improperly maintained equipment, inadequate/unsafe surfaces beneath placed equipment, and/or inappropriate heights of equipment. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spends nothing making anything safer; this pro-business, anti-citizens lobbying group spends millions to create the impression that trial lawyers are bad for business, thus bad for our citizens. To the Chamber, the number one issue is corporate profits; whether citizens are hurt or killed along the path to profits matters very little to these folks.. There are always risks of lawsuits with any business. However, lawsuits cause no physical injuries. The fact is that trial lawyers and lawsuits make all of us safer; while the U.S. Chamber and its’ “Lawsuit Abuse” front groups attempt to demonetize the lawyers, the lawyers are the ones who go out there, every day, in courtrooms and boardrooms throughout the land, and fight for your simple right to be safe. The solution in this case and others like it is not to remove swing sets; the solution is to make them and the locations they are placed in safer for our children to play on and in. Lawsuits do not cause injuries; safety breaches do.

Lawsuits increase safety awareness; they are pivotal in bringing about necessary change. While big business and the Chamber spend millions blaming the lawyers who fight for your safety, lawsuits serve a crucial purpose to improve safety. While tort reform efforts weaken the ability of our civil justice system to enforce safety standards, the trial lawyers are out there, every day, fighting to strengthen those standards. It is, sometimes, a very lonely battle. The public sometimes seems hell bent on supporting (with their money and their votes) the rights and interests or businesses, over their own, precious, civil rights. Shouldn’t improving safety, especially the safety of our children, be a win-win situation for everyone, especially our young children?

Trial lawyers are the reason why:

  • we have safer schools and workplaces.

  • there are seat belt standards and airbags in automobiles.

  • toys are safer for children.

  • lead is no longer in paint.

  • asbestos is no longer in walls.

  • dangerous drugs have been taken off the market.

Attorneys, injured plaintiffs, family members of victims, and our judicial system are the primary reason why safety changes happen. The threat of a lawsuit is the number one safety enforcement tool in America. Trial attorneys dedicate their lives not only trying to serve justice, but to improve safety for Americans.

One powerful example of someone who is making a difference is Don Keenan, an Atlanta based personal injury attorney and child safety advocate. Mr. Keenan believes that the duty of our legal system does not end when we secure financial justice for a child and their family. Don believes it has just begun; he believes that it is equally important to increase public awareness of the dangers involved, that it is imperative to help prevent future injuries and deaths.

In 1993, he created the Keenan’s Kids Foundation, a child safety organization dedicated to informing the public about child safety hazards. One of the foundation projects has been to establish basic standard of safety and maintenance for Atlanta’s playgrounds that will reduce the injuries suffered by children each year. By drawing attention to basic standards of safety for Atlanta playgrounds, The Keenan’s Kids Foundation’s goal is to increase public awareness that can be universally achievable. Don donates huge amounts of money on various children safety projects as well as for the purchase of replacement, safer (safety standard compliant), playground equipment.

There is clear and convincing evidence that trial lawyers and their clients have always led the way in safety enforcement and safety improvement. That is old news. If corporate America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent its money on improving safety rather than on attacking lawyers and seriously injured citizens to increase its already obscene corporate profits, if they made a 100% commitment to quality and safety, now that would be newsworthy.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.