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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

I’m Mad As Hell and I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore

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If you are as old as I am, perhaps you remember the movie “Network” with Peter Finch as Howard Beale, a longtime anchor of the fictional Union Broadcasting System’s UBS Evening News. When Beale learns he will be losing his job on the air due to declining ratings, he decides to break out of his complacent mold and stand up for change in America, to stand up against corporate interest attempting to cease control of this country from its citizens. In the famous scene, Beale persuades his viewers to shout out of their windows, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.” That moment has happened for me. I am here to report, I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.

Every year thousands of people suffer injuries or die as a result of others’ negligence. The lives of innocent people are turned upside down by a corporation’s faulty product, a doctor’s negligent mistake, or another person’s careless or negligent behavior. As a result, victims often suffer physical, emotional, and financial devastation.

There is almost no one in America who has not heard of the case of the woman who spilled coffee on herself and ‘collected millions’. Stella Liebeck and her case became a poster child for the concept of ‘frivolous lawsuits’ in America.  Left out of most reports of the outcome of this case is the fact that McDonald’s coffee was served at SCALDING temperatures, the company was sued multiple times by a multitude of seriously injured citizens because of these temperatures, the judge reduced the verdict substantially, and the case was settled, confidentially, for an amount far less than the verdict.  Almost as many people are familiar with the faulty switch in some GM vehicles that has been linked to at least 12 deaths and numerous accidents.  It took GM nearly a decade to recall 2.6 million small cars with the defective part that led to unexpected stalling.  We’ll see what happens here, despite GM’s new CEO Mary Barra, saying things like “As I lead GM through this crisis, I want everyone to know that I am guided by two clear principles: First, that we do the right thing for those who were harmed; and, second, that we accept responsibility for our mistakes and commit to doing everything within our power to prevent this problem from ever happening again.”, and “Numerous individuals did not accept any responsibility to drive our organization to understand what was truly happening. The report highlights a company that operated in silos, with a number of individuals seemingly looking for reasons not to act, instead of finding ways to protect our customers.”recent history suggests that GM will seek some type of legislative bailout like they did in 2008-2009.  Hundreds of thousands of injured people had their cases discharged in that bankruptcy.  Some of these were death cases, paraplegia cases and other catastrophic, life altering event cases.

Let’s look at two high-profile incidents of late.  Six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer, Amy Van Dyken Rouen severed her spine when she was thrown from an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).  The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but it may have been due to a throttle mechanism her husband had recently replaced.  Was it incorrectly installed or was the new accelerator defective?

An auto accident has left actor/comedian Tracy Morgan hospitalized and has claimed the life of his friend, an event that has been jarring for his fans, bringing an outpouring of sympathy and well wishes.  Morgan suffered serious injuries, including broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken leg, and a broken femur after a Wal-Mart truck driver failed to observe slow-moving traffic and rear-ended his limo. The force of impact caused the vehicle to overturn.  The investigation is ongoing, but it is alleged that the truck driver was in violation of the federal hours of service regulations which limits drivers to 11 hours driving in a 14-hour period followed by 10 hours of rest.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year with driver fatigue being a leading factor, yet the trucking industry and its allies in Congress have been pushing for two decades for federal regulations that permit drivers to work as many as 82 hours a week behind the wheel; the current limit is between 60 – 70 hours.  In the wake of this much-publicized accident, safety advocates hope that because a celebrity was involved in the accident it will boost their cause.  Thousands upon thousands have been seriously injured and/or killed because truckers are permitted to drive fatigued.  But that sobering statistic is not enough; it takes a serious accident like this one, with serious, life threatening injuries to a celebrity, for Congress to even think about safety legislation.  In the battle for campaign dollars and political favor, profits will trump safety, every time.  How sad…Is this the country that our forefathers envisioned?  Are those the values we want to pass on to our children?

High profile people get injured; large events like GM happen; everyone (including politicians) becomes outraged.  Suddenly, trucking companies should hire more drivers and regulate the number of hours worked, and GM should monitor products, disclose problems, and prevent needless deaths.  Everyone agrees, yet when it comes to fairly compensating the innocent victims, insurance companies run to the nearest and friendliest politician, cry lawsuit abuse, and suddenly there are laws to limit punishment to the guilty and compensation to the innocent.  How do you regulate serious misconduct without serious consequence?  Events happen; we hear bi-partisan demands for change.  But, in the back rooms of Congress, where deals are made and money is bandied about, the tide shifts and accountability and compensation are victims of corporate greed and deal making. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, insurance industry, tobacco industry, and countless other powerful industries pour millions of dollars into marketing and political campaigns in an effort to stack courtrooms across the country with pro-business, anti-consumer judges. They hire lobbyists to convince our senators and representatives to enact laws that will limit what they have to pay for the harm that they have caused, and suddenly we get “tort reform”.  The outrage of legislators, when they first hear of a serious event caused by a corporate wrongdoers, is never mirrored by their legislative behavior.

Who can forget when business tried to convince Congress to prohibit lawsuits filed by people who developed mesothelioma from working with asbestos? The right to sue was exchanged for a “fund”, set up to pay the injured.  The “asbestos fund” made for a good soundbite, but these funds are created to limit the exposure of corporations much more than they are to appropriately compensate innocent victims of these corporate predators.  Every time accountability is avoided, even in some small way, big corporations, big insurance, big pharma, big tobacco, and others benefit by the millions and billions and gratefully line the pockets of their favorite politicians, the ones that handed them the bailout.  With asbestos the amount of money in the fund is fixed and limited, regardless of how many people were injured.  How many have been under compensated?  When we get to the end of the road, how many victims or deceased victims’ families will be left behind, without compensation? In politics, the focus always seems to shift from how much should negligent corporations pay to how much they are willing to pay.  Remember the Ford Pinto fiasco?  Exploding gas tanks with seriously injured and dead drivers and passengers?  Before the cases started making headlines, Ford’s accountants (or “bean counters”) had determined that expected payout in wrongful death cases would cost the company less than recalling the vehicle and fixing the design defect.  The company made an informed decision to allow consumers to die rather than to admit wrongdoing without being forced to.

Unfortunately, this type of despicable behavior continues today.  The insurance industry feeds America false information in an effort to protect profits.  The business community continues to influence legislation to increase profits with complete disregard for the impact on the average citizen.  They lobby for more and more legislation to limit injured victims to inadequate compensation; profits continue to soar.  Insurance policy limits prevent anything close to an “excessive award” in litigation, but even if there is an overly generous jury here or there, a conservative judge, bought and paid for by big business, is around to reduce the award.  In the law, this is known as “remittitur.”  These business lobbies have even snowed members of the public into thinking that plaintiffs and plaintiff attorneys engage in “lawsuit abuse” and receive multiple large jury verdicts, money far beyond what the injury victims should receive.

Statistics suggest that this is nonsense, but citizens in support of “tort reform” will not be deterred.  Public outcry should focus upon safety and injury prevention, not upon how much a severely injured person, someone who none of us would trade places with for all the money in the world, receives in settlement of his/her personal injury claim. The reduced awards never make headlines.  Large jury verdicts sell newspapers and attract media attention.  Rarely, if ever, does the public find out what happened to these people; rarely do we hear what the ultimate (drastically reduced) outcome is.  Corporations almost never correct a serious product defect without being sued for it first.  Need proof?  Look at asbestos, tobacco, Phen Phen, metal on metal hip replacements, vaginal mesh, the GM and Pinto fiascoes.  All of these recalls, all of the outrage, all of the fixes and apologies came after a heroic personal injury trial lawyer took them to task and made them pay.  Only then do these dangerous and/or defective products make news.

Corporate resistance to regulation, failing to disclose problems, and refusing to correct problems when detected continues to be a major cause of preventable deaths, illnesses, and injuries.  While many people look at the “Hot Coffee” case and cry “frivolous,”  those people have been victimized by a malicious campaign of misinformation.  The truth is that the case shed light on a systemic problem in McDonald’s morning protocol; the company’s coffee is now served at a lower, safer temperature, with an improved lid design.  Our politicians should be focused on and fighting for safety and safety improvements, not accepting corporate funds to limit victims’ rights and compensation.  This the least we can expect from a government of the people, by the people and for the people, isn’t it?

Like “Network”, we need to shout from our windows, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. Maybe, finally, someone will listen.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

3 Comments

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  1. david says:
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    Bravo!

  2. jc says:
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    So, Mark, does your ranting also extend to plaintiff attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits? Should these lawyers also be held accountable, or just doctors, and companies?

  3. Mark Bello says:
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    Dr. Cox: Not only do I believe that lawyers should be accountable, the law and the canons of ethics hold them accountable. We should all be accountable to the citizens we serve. And that’s the big problem; today’s politician is accountable to his/her campaign contributors, not his/her constituents. Thus, whatever your definition of “justice” is, it is for sale to the highest bidder. This is a sad truth, no matter which side of the debate you are on. Regards, Mark