The ever increasing amount of damages sustained and customers disappointed by both BP and Toyota’s recent actions has reignited the debate on tort reform, with many saying that cases like these demonstrate reasons to oppose liability caps.
Scott Stroud, from the San Antonio Express, points out how citizens and lawmakers alike are taking a new look at tort reform in the wake of a $75 million cap on BP’s legal liability, even though $75 million won’t be near enough to pay for all the economic, let alone environmental, damage they have caused.
The American Association for Justice has an important and interesting report on the issue. Explaining that lax enforcement of our regulatory laws provided companies with little incentive to comply with our laws, the report demonstrates how trial lawyers and the civil justice system they are part of helped force corporate polluters to clean up their act. Corporate pollution isn’t the only place trial lawyers and our civil justice system have made a real difference in the lives of everyday Americans. In the wake of Toyota’s recent troubles, the American Association for Justice revisits how trial lawyers have used America’s courts to make our cars safer.
Our culture is full of references to people paying for their mistakes. Charles M. Silver, the McDonald Chair in Civil Procedure at the University of Texas at Austin, contends that personal responsibility is a pretty strong case against tort reform and asks us to remember that “if you do something that has risk, you need to be prepared to take responsibility for it.”
After all, saying sorry and cutting a check is all we as a society have ever really come up with to compensate another, as inadequate as our methods may be. There is no way to bring back a dead relative or undo the loss of a limb. We can’t uncry tears or unfeel pain. The environmental impact of the BP oil spill will linger for generations. No one really knows how much Toyota’s reputation for quality has been tarnished by their recent failures. Our civil justice system exists in order to ensure people take responsibility for their actions, shouldn’t it be the same for companies as it is for people?