by Cyrus Dugger, Fri Aug 11, 2006 at 09:41:49 AM EDT
Welcome to Tort Victim Tragedies.
Each week (first edition, second edition) I will highlight the case of an injured person who was (or likely will be) denied full justice because of changes made to state law by the national anti-civil justice movement (aka the "tort reform" movement).
Unknown to most Americans, their right and their ability to access the courts are under assault from what is truly a mass movement by business interests to shield themselves from liability for their misconduct.
This "tort reform" movement frames its agenda as reasonable reform geared to protect corporations from what they describe as frivolous lawsuits which drive up the cost of business, and ostensibly hurt the state's economy.
In most of my posts, I will be addressing the fallacies of the anti-civil justice movement arguments. However, every Tuesday, I will do something unique and perhaps unprecedented.
One of the strengths of the anti-civil justice movement is its ability to put the spotlight on specific ludicrous sounding lawsuits in order to characterize the entire civil justice system as "out of control."
As I've described before in my previous post "Why You Should be Able to Sue McDonald's if You Spill Coffee on Yourself," and as I will continue to describe, often these characterizations distort and re-tell critical aspects of these cases which would otherwise support a finding that they were not frivolous.
This constant media barrage of outrageous lawsuits has shaped the public opinion against the very civil justice system which protects us.
As a response to this anti-civil justice media barrage, each week I will highlight the other side of this coin: the real victims who are left without access to full justice because of the effects of the laws pushed through the state legislatures by the anti-civil justice movement.
Please join us each week to read incredibly sobering stories regarding the effects of the anti-civil justice movement on real people's lives and families.
This third week highlights two cases from Michigan.
The first is Leslie Richter:
Lansing resident Leslie Richter, 62, says she should have the option of suing.
Her husband of 42 years, Richard, retired from General Motors Corp. in April 2000. They enjoyed going to casinos and taking an annual trip across the Upper Peninsula together.
"He always used to say,'Just you and me, honey,'" Leslie Richter said. "We laughed and laughed until we had tears in our eyes."
Other than arthritis, she said, Richard was in good health. His doctor put him on Vioxx in 2000.
He suffered his first stroke in June 2002. He couldn't move his left side or arm and needed a wheelchair. He suffered another stroke the following January and died 44 days later.
Leslie Richter said her jaw dropped when she later learned that Vioxx was being discontinued for side effects.
She says Michigan residents should have the same rights to recourse as people in other states.
"Somebody has to be accountable for the mistakes if mistakes are made,"she said.
The second is Dr. David Cox:
Dr. David Cox says he was in perfect health before he took Vioxx. "I suffered a stroke to my brain stem - I had a thriving practice."
But that all came to a screeching halt for Dr. Cox three years ago, when he says Vioxx nearly killed him.
Today, with chronic health problems, Dr. Cox can't work or do much else.
"I don't do a whole lot of anything any more,"Dr. Cox said.
Although Vioxx has been withdrawn from the market, and suits against its manufacturer are progressing in other states, these two potential victims of the company's decision to market a drug with significant risks have no remedy. The drug company is shielded by complete immunity because of a 1995 Michigan law. If they lived across the border, they would have access to justice.