I AM A GREEDY TRIAL LAWYER
I have been a lawyer since 1979, aggressively protecting the rights of catastrophically injured individuals. Yes, I am a greedy trial lawyer. I am greedy for justice. As I listen to politicians, including presidential candidates, conveniently noting that lawyers are like bottom feeders or the “scum of the earth" or where I hear ignorant people telling me that trial lawyers are greedy, I can only think to myself that had it not been for trial lawyers, the greed of corporate America and Wall Street would certainly doom us all. When one thinks of greed, we think intuitively that greed is bad. We think of a self-serving, selfish individual who cares about nothing but accumulating wealth. Until lately, we did not hear much about greedy banks, greedy insurance companies or greedy Wall Street investment firms. What we did hear about most is greedy trial lawyers. Today the individual taxpayers are left holding the bag for the most massive bailout of greed in the history of developed nations. It is only when we feel the pain individually that we have the tendency to catagorize something or someone as greedy. Anyone living in today’s world knows that trial lawyers have been under attack and many of the rules applicable to injured and innocent victims have been changed or legislated away to give big corporations more and more power. The most contentious area of tort reform, and the area in which tort reform advocates focus, is on personal injury and the greed of the trial lawyer.
I am fortunate to live and practice law in the United States where juries decide cases and where compensatory and punitive damages are available to injured plaintiffs and to assist in policing the system of corporate greed. Tort reform has become a contentious political issue particularly because of the alleged high cost of compensating injured victims. It is my feeling that lawyers are the silent policemen of society. We protect the hopes and the value of hope of innocent victims. How do you know if your household products or automobiles are defective and could be causing a potential injury to you or your family? How do you know if your medicines are doing more harm than good? How do you know if the toys you purchase are safe for your children? Under current law, many defective and hazardous products remain on store shelves and in medicine cabinets and are in the houses of millions of Americans and you never know they are dangerous. Government and big corporations get away with keeping this information from us. They seal public records in court cases and try to keep everything a secret, even when victims are successful in holding corporations accountable for defective and hazardous products. They are forced to enter into secrecy agreements which prevent them from informing other consumers of the injuries they defend. The practice of secrecy in tort reform is an example of how corporations can legally put profits over people. Politicians claim that lawsuit abuse destroys jobs, forces doctors out of business, and forces companies into bankruptcy. They want to deprive innocent and injured clients of the hope of the judicial system and the access to the courts dictated by the founding fathers of the United States Constitution. Corporations have and will continue to place profits over safety unless policed by trial lawyers and the court system.
It is really not so bad to be a trial lawyer greedy for justice and greedy for the protection of peoples rights. I am proud of that. In my mind, there are tremendous social benefits of the civil justice system which are protected by trial lawyers greedy for justice. Certain politicians would rather shut the lawyers out of the courts than help the people and would rather protect the interests of big business and Wall Street and the insurance companies who support their campaigns. Many people who would not otherwise have access to the courts are being shut out by Federal preemption laws and other tort reform mechanisms. Of course, there are always a few trial lawyers who spoil the bunch by bringing what I consider to be senseless and frivolous lawsuits. However, I would argue that the majority of the trial lawyers assure that the system works in a fair and balanced way for injured individuals.
I am sure that most people who have had an insurance claim are not likely to have their claim resolved with one phone call to the insurance company. In truth, most jury verdicts send a message to business that if you continue to do business the way you have been doing it, you are going to be punished and will be held accountable for your misdeeds. Not so different than a fine. Of course, some fines appear to be excessive and some of the verdicts and “fines" may seem to be excessive; however, what most people do not recognize is that most outrageous trial verdicts are reversed quietly on appeal.
We all need protection from insurance companies and other big businesses that use unfair settlement claims practices and do not play by the rules. Today more than ever insurance companies, corporate defendants and politicians are endlessly attacking pathways to the courts for injured plaintiffs. In effect, they tell you that there is no value to hope. The people who run these companies are the same people that we have been reading about over the last few weeks or months and the wipe out on Wall Street. These are the people with the golden parachutes. These are the people who receive salaries in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And these are the people who accuse innocent victims and trial lawyers of being greedy. Does anybody have a mirror?
Using the “any plain fool can see" theory from L’il Abner, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out where the real greed lies.
Philadelphia personal injury attorney, Jeffrey Reiff, has been representing the rights of injured consumers since 1979. He has been an advocate of consumer safety and the rights of individuals against major corporations. If you or a loved one has sustained harm or injury from a defective product, please feel free to call the experienced product liability lawyers at Reiff & Bily at 1-800-421-9595 or online at www.reiffandbily.com.