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Mass Torts/Politics & the Media

Ralph welcomes Professor Elizabeth Burch to talk about her work researching how a certain mechanism in the civil justice system called Multi-District Litigation (MDL) is undermining your constitutional right to have your day in court. Then, Professor Jane Hall stops by to discuss the state of the media in her new book, “Politics and the Media: Intersections and New Directions.”

Elizabeth Burch is a professor at the University of Georgia School of Law, author of Mass Tort Deals: Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation, and co-author of Perceptions of Justice in Multidistrict Litigation: Voices from the Crowd.


How can people get individually treated [when their case is consolidated with 100,000 other cases] in court?

Ralph Nader on Mass Torts (MDL)


We’re working within a system that essentially focuses on a volume business. And my concern in all of it is that the defendants are essentially getting a volume discount. That the plaintiffs aren’t able to achieve adequate compensation… And that the plaintiffs don’t feel like they’ve had their day in court. There are so many people who are involved in the system that it’s very deindividuated at this point. A number of the plaintiffs that I talked with said they felt like just a number on a spreadsheet. And I think for them, that’s certainly not what they anticipated when they signed up with a law firm to represent them in court.

Professor Elizabeth Burch, author of Perceptions of Justice in Multidistrict Litigation: Voices from the Crowd

[Current provisions for plaintiff lawyers] are essentially anti-competitive provisions that require the lawyers to recommend that their clients take the settlement. 100% of their clients. So, they can’t just recommend the deal to the handful that they think it would be really good for. They have to say to all their clients “This is a great deal. You’ve got to accept this.” Some of the settlements between the plaintiffs’ lawyers and the defendants– not between the plaintiffs and defendants– then require the lawyers to actually take the step of withdrawing from representing clients who refuse to settle.

Professor Elizabeth Burch, author of Perceptions of Justice in Multidistrict Litigation: Voices from the Crowd

Jane Hall is a professor in journalism and media studies at American University. Her new book is Politics and the Media: Intersections and New Directions.


I think that we do a lot around media literacy. We talk about the media ecosystem. I don’t think we talk enough about who owns what. And it is my experience that when I tell students that the public owns the airwaves, they look at me kind of funny.

Professor Jane Hall, author of Politics and the Media: Intersections and New Directions

There is the sense that there’s a lot of choice [in media] out there. I think this is true of the general public. In my view, we have an illusion of choice, you have the same people owning everything, practically.

Professor Jane Hall, author of Politics and the Media: Intersections and New Directions

College newspapers are winning awards, and those people are, hopefully, going on to other jobs. But there’s also the decline of bigger newspapers. And so, you can raise a great generation of college journalists, but if the capital companies are buying up newspapers you have a diminution of newspaper jobs for these great journalists to go to.

Professor Jane Hall, author of Politics and the Media: Intersections and New Directions

I think it’s a red herring, this whole idea of…beating up on the media as liberal. Attacking the very nature of the role of the media in this country. Donald Trump (and before that Roger Ailes) [was] highly successful. And so I think the media performed, under the Trump Administration, performed particularly well in withstanding those attacks. And during coronavirus you see a lot of people saying, “Gee you know, maybe, maybe these journalists were telling us the truth.”

Professor Jane Hall, author of Politics and the Media: Intersections and New Directions

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 394 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Don Harris says:

    “If you don’t protest, if you don’t demand, you’re gonna get ignored.”
    -Ralph Nader

    You have also said politicians want our votes more than big money.

    Since 2015 I have been asking you to address One Demand, a way for citizens to work together to demand that politicians run small donor campaigns in order to get our votes. You said on Washington Journal (10-24-2018) you would have me on the Radio Hour to discuss One Demand.

    The only protest I can do is commenting here. That has been ignored.

    So let’s make it a demand.

    I demand that you discuss One Demand with Prof. Herman Schwartz and the effect One Demand could have on gerrymandering.

    Gerrymandering works best when elections are predictable. The two party system with both parties controlled by the big money interests is what makes elections predictable.

    Just 10% of 2020 voters participating in One Demand in 2022 can upset the predictability of the 2022 elections.

    In the primaries in districts above the 10% national average a small donor candidate could win in the primaries.

    In the general election in 2022 a small donor third party or indeoendent candidate could take enough votes away from the candidate that the district is gerrymandered for allowing the token candidate to from the other Current Major Party to win or make it very close.

    This would expose the vulnerability of gerrymandering and encourage more citizens to participate in 2024 putting more districts in doubt.

    As you said to members of the Congress Club: You have your marching orders.


  2. Rebecca Troyer says:

    What do you think of the vaccine makers (which include Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) having immunity from lawsuits for at least two years, and which will probably be extended forever?

    Can you have a program about that?

    Thank you for all you do!

    • vince says:

      Oh, that’s interesting (and somewhat frightening). Obviously, they requested that due to the speed with which they developed the vaccines.

  3. My “Clean Water Act” lawsuit lasted 20 years and was never granted a trial because the defendant spent millions deferring it. Sadly our oceans are dying as a consequence causing the greatest calamity the world will ever know as billions will starve from toxic marine micro-plastic disrupting the critical ocean food chain.