Monday, February 05, 2007

Trial Lawyers: Who They Hurt, Who They Help

I heard someone say the other day that John Edwards is a trial lawyer, as if the words were synonymous with thief or murderer.

I know where it came from: the right wing noise machine.

But I didn't know why.

Then I figured it out: it's another example of the right wing's ability to convince ordinary people to identify with the rich and the powerful, instead of with their own interests.

Hearing the epithet trial lawyer hurled at John Edwards, like that made him a bad person, reminded me of one of his most celebrated cases: A little girl who was disemboweled by the filter system on a pool -- and lived.

It was not just a horrible accident.

It was one of many similar horrible accidents.

The company that made the filters knew about the problem, and did not issue an instant warning and recall to anyone who ever bought the product.

At the time the girl Edwards represented was so grievously hurt, there were already 12 other cases pending.

You can read about it yourself here.

This is the citation: Lakey v. Sta-Rite Industries(Wake Co. Superior Ct., NC, 1996)

This is the summary: A 5-year-old girl was disemboweled, but survived, after being caught and suctioned by a wading pool's defective drain. Despite 12 prior suits with similar claims, the manufacturer continued to make and sell drain covers lacking warnings.

This was the outcome: A $25 million settlement.

Are settlements like that too high? I think they are too low. The people that let a child get hurt like this long after the danger is apparent should live in fear of losing everything.

If it was my kid, I'd want the money for the round-the-clock care she would need for the rest of her life, and I'd also want something more: for the people who knowingly let this happen to go to jail forever and ever and ever.

So, the next time I hear someone say trial lawyer like it's a bad thing, I'll be ready to say what's on my mind.

It's simple, really.

You can be on the side that helps people who are injured, or you can be on the side of people who intentionally let children be disemboweled in pools.

I know which side I'm on.

And, for the record, my father was a trial lawyer -- on the plaintiff's side.

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