Profit without Risk: The Chamber of Commerce’s Dream

Why are corporations trying to remove your access to compensation via jury trials? Profit. There are many ways that corporations are trying to increase their profits by putting you at risk, but they don’t want to have to bear that risk themselves. They want to profit from the products they produce without having to be held responsible for the injuries their products cause.

Here’s the rationale behind their campaign to keep you from getting a jury trial.

Dangerous Products Are Cheaper

You don’t have to look too hard to find examples of dangerous products that could have been made safer if the manufacturer was prepared to invest the money. You can go back to the Ford Pinto case, where Ford knew that the risk of fires could be reduced for an $11/per car improvement. Or you can look to the recent case of the Blitz gas cans, in which the company decided not to add a 50-cent flame arrestor to its plastic gas cans. The flame arrestor prevents nearby fires from causing an explosion, and are a standard safety requirement in gas cans used in the workplace.

And it’s not just products where corporations are trying to save money. Consider nursing home care, where for-profit chains use 30% fewer staffed nursing hours than non-profit and government alternatives. Or medical devices, where manufacturers don’t want to take the time to test the safety of a device and use a regulatory shortcut to get their products on the market without safety testing.

Human Costs Are Real, But Companies Don’t Want to Pay Them

When people are injured, there are very real costs that the individual and we as a society suffer. Even if a corporation has no conscience and can discount pain, suffering, and the loss of quality of life, there are genuine costs in lost working hours and medical care. At a minimum, medical errors cost us $17.1 billion in additional medical health care. These costs are documented and known. When you add in the costs in lost productivity for lives lost at the figures used by the Institute of Medicine in 1999, the likely human cost of medical errors in the US is at least $73.5 to $98 billion, and may be as high as $980 billion.

If doctors, insurance companies, and corporations do not pay these costs, who does? We all do. We pay for assistance to widows of people killed by defective products, medical care for those injured, and our GDP suffers from the loss of working hours.

Lawsuits Introduce Risk Companies Might Have to Pay Human Costs

When a corporation is targeted by a lawsuit, there is a risk that it may lose the lawsuit and have to pay for the medical costs, lost wages, and diminished quality of life suffered by the victim. Despite what corporations would have you believe, risk is inherent in business. In fact, risk keeps the market free, and is an essential part of a capitalist system.

However, risk of losing profits is not acceptable to corporations, who look for ways to avoid it.

Tort Reform Protects Companies from Paying Human Cost

Corporations use tort reform as way to protect themselves from having to pay the cost of the injuries they cause. Consider a common tort reform: damage caps for noneconomic damages. This may limit the amount payable to people for pain, suffering, and loss of quality of life (also known as the pursuit of happiness). These costs are inevitably borne by the accident victims who were at best partly responsible for the accident. Corporations must be made to pay their share of the accident, as determined in a legal process by a jury that weighs the evidence.

Another common tactic is the use of binding arbitration agreements that force injury victims into an arbitration system that does not compensate them fully for their injuries. Arbitration forces victims to have their case heard not by a jury or even judge, but by an arbitrator beholden to the corporation. There are few options for appealing the results of arbitration.

Corporations need to be forced to pay the true costs of their dangerous products or services. Join the fight to protect the jury trial today.