In conjunction with the American Museum of Tort Law, we conduct another live Zoom recording where Ralph welcomes legendary trial lawyer Shanin Spector to discuss the constitutional right of wrongfully injured people to have their day in court and the corporate forces that are trying to limit this most basic of American principles. Then, Ralph and Mr. Spector take questions from our live audience.
Shanin Specter is a founding partner of Kline & Specter, one of the leading catastrophic injury firms in the United States. Beyond winning substantial monetary compensation for his clients, many of Shanin’s cases have prompted beneficial societal changes. He has also taught law for many years and this academic year is teaching tort and trial courses at UC Law SF, Drexel Kline and Stanford Law Schools.
Last week, I found myself in Washington DC at the Federalist Society debating the resolution that America should abolish the right of trial by jury, which is being advocated by an otherwise distinguished professor at George Washington University School of Law, Professor [Renée Lettow] Lerner… You don’t have to scratch the surface of her argument very much to see that it is based upon the statistics of the American Tort Reform Association and the like. It’s essentially a Trojan horse for the Fortune 500.
Why don’t you describe this assault on the tort system by lobbyists who don’t want to argue their case in court— that’s too open, too full of cross-examination, too fair in terms of the procedures. They want to lobby lawmakers in states all over the country so the lawmakers, in effect, enact laws that tie the hands of juries and judges— the only people who actually see, hear, and evaluate the cases in the courtroom.
In Case You Haven’t Heard
1. The FTC has issued a statement regarding the proposed merger between CalPortland & Martin Marietta. Chair Lina Khan tweeted that this deal “would’ve resulted in a single firm owning half of all cement plants serving Southern California, enabling the firm to hike prices.” Following an FTC investigation, the firms have abandoned the deal.
2. AP reports that Colorado has become the first state to pass “Right to Repair” legislation, which “compels manufacturers to provide the necessary manuals, tools, parts and software,” to “ensure farmers can fix their own tractors and combines.” This idea has drawn support from left and right factions including at the national level. In a similar move regarding home repairs, Senator John Fetterman is pushing to expand Pennsylvania’s "Whole Home Repair" program – which “helps Pennsylvanians with needed repairs and eliminate[s] blight” – to the nation.
3. Former U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has been ejected from Colombia after attempting to “gatecrash” a summit on the future of the Bolivarian republic, the Guardian reports. Guaidó has fallen out of favor among Venezuelan dissidents and, while some western nations still recognize him on paper as Venezuela’s president – despite never winning such an election – many have quietly reengaged with the Maduro government to negotiate for oil. The Guardian added that Mr. Guaidó has now relocated to Miami.
4. Slate reports that automakers are finally beginning to backpedal on digital displays in cars. David Zipper writes “The touch screen pullback is the result of consumer backlash, not the enactment of overdue regulations or an awakening of corporate responsibility. Many drivers want buttons, not screens, and they’ve given carmakers an earful about it. Auto executives have long brushed aside safety concerns about their complex displays—and all signs suggest they would have happily kept doing so. But their customers are revolting, which has forced them to pay attention.” Zipper goes on to pin the blame for the proliferation of these expensive and unpopular displays on one culprit: Elon Musk’s Tesla.
5. From the Tampa Bay Times: State legislators in Florida are leading a crusade to shred local tenants rights laws, which set standards regarding rent increases, applications and evictions. The recently-passed HB 1417 and its companion SB 1586 would strip away these protections. Rep. Tiffany Esposito, of Fort Myers, who sponsored the House bill, is quoted saying “This bill protects tenants, this bill protects property owners and this bill protects capitalism.” Rep. Angie Nixon of Jacksonville responded “This bill is designed to help corporate landlords at the expense of tenants, many of which are already struggling to stay in their homes.”
6. Ben & Jerry’s announced that it has reached an agreement with workers at its flagship store in Burlington, Vermont on rules to ensure a fair union election, after workers announced last week that they are seeking to unionize, per the New York Times. “The agreement is likely to pave the way for the store to become the only unionized Ben & Jerry’s location in the United States. All of the nearly 40 workers eligible to join a union at the store have indicated their support for doing so.”
7. The Hill reports that a War Powers Resolution to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, has been defeated. The resolution garnered the support of 47 Republicans and 56 Democrats but failed by a margin of 103-321.
8. Keeping an eye on out of control cops, the LA Times reports that during a "reverse-buy" sting operation, undercover deputies with the Riverside sheriff sold 60 pounds of meth to a narcotics trafficker. According to the author Noah Goldberg, the dealer then got in a car and fled, resulting in 60 additional pounds of meth being introduced into the community. And in West Virginia, WTRF reports that “42 women, including 10 minors, plan to file lawsuits against West Virginia State Police for [installing] hidden cameras in junior troopers locker rooms…[engaging in] rampant sexual misconduct,” and admitting to destroying evidence in criminal investigations.
9. From Common Dreams: Reps. AOC and Ro Khanna, along with Senator Ed Markey, have reintroduced the Green New Deal. Along with the resolution, which is unlikely to move in the current Congress, the sponsors released “a guide for cities, states, tribes, nonprofits, and individuals about how to help bring the Green New Deal to life."
10. From the Economic Policy Institute: April 28th marked “Workers Memorial Day, the date the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) took effect in 1971. Signed in 1970, the OSH Act has made a tremendous difference, and, after more than 50 years, over 668,000 workers can say their lives have been saved by its passage… [yet] In 2022, 343 workers died each day on average from hazardous working conditions, and last year’s fatality data show especially troubling trends: The rate of death on the job for Black workers rose to its highest number in more than a decade, and fatality rates for Latino workers have increased 13% in the past decade…grim as these…numbers are, the reality is likely far worse. Government Accountability Office…reports show that a majority of employers fail to report workplace injuries due to [OSHA]’s limited resources and procedures. Official statistics also do not include the untold numbers of worker deaths linked to preventable workplace coronavirus exposure. In fact, the pandemic revealed serious limitations of the OSH Act and its enforcement in an era of eroded worker power and vast economic inequality.”