The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Boy wonder

Ambulance Chaser Watch

It looks like it will be Kerry and Edwards who will defeat Bush, and I think Kerry has made a good choice from those on his short list. Edwards is a good stump speaker, has charisma (he looks about 15 years younger than he is), and is also sharp. He is also a wealthy trial lawyer. In fact, you will probably hear about the fact that he is a WTL from every news outlet and talking head until your ears bleed. Because America supposedly hates trial lawyers.

The following are excerpts from a lengthy, but very well worth the time article ("John Edwards, esq.") on Edwards in specific and trial lawyers and tort reform in general. It will give you a feeling for how Edwards made his name, and also the kind of "reforms" that the corporations have in store for us:

The defining case in Edwards' legal career wrapped up that same year. In 1993, a five-year-old girl named Valerie Lakey had been playing in a Wake County, N.C., wading pool when she became caught in an uncovered drain so forcefully that the suction pulled out most of her intestines. She survived but for the rest of her life will need to be hooked up to feeding tubes for 12 hours each night. Edwards filed suit on the Lakeys' behalf against Sta-Rite Industries, the Wisconsin corporation that manufactured the drain. Attorneys describe his handling of the case as a virtuoso example of a trial layer bringing a negligent corporation to heel. Sta-Rite offered the Lakeys $100,000 to settle the case. Edwards passed. Before trial, he discovered that 12 other children had suffered similar injuries from Sta-Rite drains. The company raised its offer to $1.25 million. Two weeks into the trial, they upped the figure to $8.5 million. Edwards declined the offer and asked for their insurance policy limit of $22.5 million. The day before the trial resumed from Christmas break, Sta-Rite countered with $17.5 million. Again, Edwards said no. On January 10, 1997, lawyers from across the state packed the courtroom to hear Edwards' closing argument, "the most impressive legal performance I have ever seen," recalls Dayton. Three days later, the jury found Sta-Rite guilty and liable for $25 million in economic damages (by state law, punitive damages could have tripled that amount). The company immediately settled for $25 million, the largest verdict in state history. For their part, Edwards and Kirby earned the Association of Trial Lawyers of America's national award for public service.
Years of conservative agitation about trial lawyers have led the public to believe that the courts are clogged with "frivolous lawsuits." But that belief is unlikely to withstand a national debate, because the truth is fundamentally different from what tort reformers pretend. There has indeed been a rise in frivolous claims. But they haven't been brought by personal injury lawyers; those claims have actually decreased over the last decade. The single factor most clogging the judicial system is frivolous litigation brought by corporations against corporations, which don't involve independent trial lawyers at all. For example, John Deere went after a competitor for using the same shade of green that Deere paints its tractors. Gillette sued Norelco, claiming its ads for a new electric razor were "false and deceptive" because they depicted non-electric razors as "ferocious creatures." Nabisco sued Keebler over the latter's claim that its chocolate-chip cookies contained 25 percent more chips than Nabisco's. Each of these cases is more representative of the true problem of frivolous litigation. But because they involve a Republican constituency---business---rather than a Democrat constituency like trial lawyers, tort reform advocates don't mention them.

To persuade the public that frivolous personal injury suits have brought on a crisis, advocates of change religiously invoke cases like the elderly woman who spilled coffee on herself and won a $2.9 million jury verdict against McDonald's. Such stories tap into a genuine sense of frustration many Americans have with the modern tendency to blame others for problems of their own making. But on closer examination---the kind likely to happen if the GOP declares open war on trial lawyers---such anecdotes will be exposed as the urban myths most of them are. As Roger Williams University torts professor Carl Bogus explains in his book, Why Lawsuits Are Good for America, the woman who spilled her McDonald's coffee had to undergo a skin graft, spend weeks in the hospital, and offered to settle for $10,000 (McDonald's refused). She only sued as a last resort---the epitome of conscientious use of the legal system. Her original award of $2.9 million was later reduced by a judge, as most such judgements are, to $480,000, and she wound up settling for even less. To prevent other suits, McDonald's, which had previously ignored more than 700 similar complaints, stopped serving near-boiling coffee, as did its competitors.

It is an excellent article. So the next time you hear slurs about Edwards being a trial lawyer, remember that the person slurring him apparently is in favor of manufacturers disemboweling children with their products, or at least getting away with it.

Edwards Watch

An excellent analysis on Edwards and his stump speech by Digby, who published this a year ago:

But, Edwards is the natural of the bunch. He's the one who has the talent to really communicate with average Americans and get them to recognize that the Republican Party does not have their best interest at heart. Like Clinton, he is very, very good at explaining complicated issues in understandable terms without being condescending. 20 years as a litigator will do that, and from all reports he was an extremely effective advocate before a jury.

Media Cabal Watch

Here's a really funny/scary moment in media revelation, captured by Elton Beard at BusyBusyBusy. In a discussion between the two war hawks Joe Lieberman and Andrea Mitchell, Mrs. Alan Greenspan remarked on the American people going sour on the Iraq war with this remark: "... Have we lost the American people?" Trying to figure out who "we" is in that remark is both interesting and scary.

Progressive Resource Watch

A couple of good resources for you are the new Center for American Progress and Media Matters. CAP is a progressive thinktank, on the order of the Hertiage Foundation, but for the good guys. Media Matters is a watch dog group funded by George Soros to keep an eye on the conservative media. They are led by David Brock. You will find excellent information at both sites.

Conservative Idiots Watch

Check out this week's Top Ten CI list. An excerpt:

So, while Michael Moore detractors have been taking to the airwaves to denounce Fahrenheit 9/11 as a piece of meaningless propaganda, the Carlyle Group - which is sharply focused on in the movie due to its ties to Saudi Arabia and the Bush family - has purchased Loews Cineplex Entertainment. What a coincidence! And I mean that most sincerely - it would be unrealistic to surmise that the Carlyle Group bought Loews Cineplex in an effort to suppress Moore's movie. But the timing is fascinating. Carlyle has traditionally focused on telecom, arms, and oil. Saudis - and the bin Laden family in particular - have invested heavily in the company. Now that the spotlight is shining on the connection between the Bush family and the bin Ladens, Carlyle's move into the American media and entertainment industry ought to raise a few eyebrows.

That, in and of itself, is frightening to me. What does Carlyle plan? No more populist movies? Ever? Good luck with that, conservatives.


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