As many others have reported, here and elsewhere, John Stossel has stepped up his attack on our civil justice system. He is clever, even funny, in his attacks on your right to pursue justice for serious injuries incurred due to the negligence of corporations and others. He attacks what appears to be ludicrous, arguing against "wacky labels" on consumer products. He attacks the attorneys who represent consumers; we all know what easy prey attorneys are. Attorneys have been ridiculed and attacked as far back as Shakespeare’s "Lets kill all the lawyers" quote in Henry VI.
My friends and family know I have a sense of humor; in fact, my daughter, Jessica and son-in-law, Eric, have "labled" my jokes, using my initials: An "MB" is a bad joke; an "MMB" is actually funny. I even tell lawyer jokes from time to time:
"Why do they bury lawyers ten feet under the ground?" "Because, deep down, they are really nice guys!"
But, masking warnings of potential serious dangers with mock outrage and commentary that is "wacky" and "funny" is not, well, "funny"…. it is, in fact, "dangerous", even "life threatening".
The main focus on yesterday’s show about "wacky labels" and how ‘lawsuit happy’ all of us are, was on how much money lawsuits cost consumers. The premise was that lawsuits seem to cost consumers more than the safety that they procure saves us. This supposition is, absolutely, false, but, even if it was true, ask yourself this question: Are you willing to pay a little more for a product to assure that it is safe for your family to use? Here’s another question for you: If the threat of a lawsuit prevents a dangerous product from landing in your kids’ hands or in your backyard, or at your school or playground, would you support such a lawsuit?
Here is an example of Stossel’s sense of humor: He steps into an empty hot tub and proclaims that there is a warning label that says: "Prevent Drowning". He asks: "Why would a company put a stupid label like that on a hot tub?" His guest (who, I assume, makes a lot of money identifying "wacky labels" and trashing attorneys and lawsuits, or, perhaps, quietly represents insurance companies and product manufacturers) answers: "Because they know if they don’t, the lawers will say you failed to warn us, even if it is common sense; it will drive someone into a lawsuit and thousands of dollars in legal bills". Ha ha ha ha! Funny, huh?
Except, the label does not only say "Prevent Drowning" and it is not funny or unnecessary at all. You see, we are human beings; we come in all types of shapes and sizes, with different levels of common sense and different life experiences. What Stossel’s guest thinks is "common sense" or obvious to him, may not be "common sense" to others, hence, the label. And, what about that label? Here’s what it actually says:
"Warning: Medicine and Drowning. Spa heat speeds up effects of alcohol, drugs or medicine and can cause unconsciousness. Immediately leave spa if uncomfortable or sleepy."
"Warning: Prevent Child Drowning. Water attracts children. Always attach a spa cover after each use."
Is that a "funny" label? Is this an unreasonable warning? I must lack common sense, because, I confess, I didn’t know that spa heat "speeds up effects of alcohol, drugs or medicine"; did you? And the child warning that Stossel and his guest thought was so funny? ‘Ha ha ha ha’, said Stossel. ‘Doesn’t everyone know that a kid can drown in a hot tub?’ Well, John, maybe, but the more important question is, are we focused on the danger? Would all families purchasing a hot tub have thought to buy a cover to prevent drowning? The warning is designed to suggest the purchase of a cover (which makes the spa seller more money, Mr. Capitalist) to prevent unintended consequences. This is not "funny", at all; the label is not, in any way, "wacky".
If I asked you what was more important to you, "safety" or "money", what would your answer be? The average consumer would answer: "Why, safety, of course". The average CEO of a product manufacturing company might answer "safety" but know, in his heart, that, if he or she was being completely truthful, her/his answer would be "money". And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the crux of the issue: Lawsuits assure safety by holding corporations to a standard that costs them more money when what they manufacture or distribute is not safe. In other words, corporations only care about safety in the context of money and/or profits.
Stossel and his moronic guests have suggested that lawsuits cost America too much money. That our children have no place to play because lawsuits have closed playgrounds and community pools. What a load of baloney! We have recalled drain systems because children were being sucked to the bottom of pools and drowned by defective drains. Why were those drains recalled and replaced? The cost of defending and compensating victims in lawsuits exceeded the cost of replacing the drains. Safety issue for the victims and the lawyers; bottom-line, money issue for the corporations. Bad or good? Playgrounds are now placed on a rubber-like substances or mulch/wood chip beds, instead of concrete. Isn’t it ‘common sense’ that kids are safer on monkey bars or swings and slides that are supported by softer ground than concrete?! I don’t know whether we have less playgrounds; but I am certain that these safety measures have resulted in less injuries. Don’t believe me? Check out the Keenan Kids Foundation, a charity founded by a trial lawyer, Don Keenan, to advance playground safety and kids’ safety in general.
What a hypocrite this Stossel is! He attacks trial lawyers for making money on lawsuits, but defends doctors who practice defensive medicine or do unnecessary surgical procedures (forget that they can make more $$$$ for more treatment, especially, surgery). He criticizes lawsuits but sues and collects six figures from a wrestler for "injuries" suffered when the wrestler (probably justifiably) unloads on him. He was a consumer advocate on ABC but switched to FOX and corporate advocacy for, wait for it….wait for it….. in his own words…..for "the money"!
Money, money, money, money, MONEY! More of it for Stossel by bashing lawsuits, victims, and lawyers than taking on corporations. The "old" Stossel, the one I liked and respected, would say of himself: "Give me a break"!
Mark Bello is the owner, founder, and CEO of Lawsuit Financial Corporation (www.lawsuitfinancial.com) where he is instrumental in providing cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life lawsuit funding is needed in pending litigation. Mr. Bello has thirty-four years experience as a trial lawyer, his last thirteen spent as an underwriter and situational analyst in the legal finance industry. Mr. Bello is a sustaining and justice pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, justice pac member of the American Association for Justice, out-of state member of the Mississippi Association for Justice, Business associate of the Florida, Tennesee, and Central Ohio Associations for Justice. He is also a member of the Michigan and American Bar Associations, and a proud member of InjuryBoard. Mark can be reached, toll free, at 1-877-377-SUIT (7848).
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.