Editorial assault unjustified

The Press-Register's June 24 editorial, "Alabama needs to flee 'tort purgatory,"' is a continuation of an unjustified and inaccurate assault on Alabama's civil justice system. The editorial concludes that Alabama's courts remain a "most inhospitable place for business" based on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's so-called ranking of state liability systems.

Here is what's wrong with the chamber's bogus study:

--The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., is America's biggest corporate lobbying organization. It is a front group funded by oil, drug, insurance and tobacco companies, among others.

The U.S. Chamber is clearly distinguishable from local chambers of commerce, which are great resources for small businesses and for growing local economies.

--The U.S. Chamber's own pollster admitted that there is no way to measure the fairness of any state's legal system.

--The U.S. Chamber only surveys corporate defense lawyers employed by companies with $100 million or more in annual revenues.

Yes, the U.S. Chamber's poll is based on responses from the same lawyers who work every day defending and protecting large corporations like Exxon and Enron, even after they have been caught breaking the law. No local attorneys, judges or members of the media are ever surveyed.

It becomes still clearer just how meaningless the U.S. Chamber's state rankings are when one compares it with other state rankings. Some states that chronically rank at the bottom of the U.S. Chamber's poll are cited by other credible sources as great places to do business.

These include Alabama, Texas, South Carolina and Florida––all named among the most desirable business climates in Site Selection magazine's ranking, which surveys corporate executives. Moreover, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida––all in the bottom 25 percent of the U.S. Chamber's poll––made the Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States list.

So what gives? The purpose of the U.S. Chamber's bogus study is to pressure state legislators to tilt the playing field even more radically toward the interest of big corporations.

Civil justice attorneys work to make sure any person who is injured by the misconduct and negligence of others can get justice in the courtroom, even when taking on the most powerful interests.

This is more important now than ever because the drug, insurance and oil industries, along with other large corporations, dominate our political process and thus, people cannot depend on the political system to hold corporations accountable.

When corporations and their CEOs act irresponsibly by producing products that are unsafe, by delaying or refusing to pay fair and just insurance claims, and by polluting our environment, the only resort for Americans to hold them accountable is in our courts.

The fallacy in the June 24 editorial is its blind acceptance as truth a poll of corporate lawyers on their opinion of state justice systems.

The U.S. Chamber's agenda is not surprising. What is surprising is that our local paper, through its editorials, continues to partner with such anti-consumer groups in the spreading of this deception.



Editor's note: Toby Brown is a partner in the Mobile law firm Cunningham Bounds, and is also president-elect of the Alabama Association for Justice.

Lawyers Involved: