American Museum of Tort Law: An Important Showcase – (PART 2)

Landmark Tort Cases Highlighted in Little Connecticut
Special Entry for the Verdict, edition #154 – FALL 2017 – By Bentley Doyle

[Read Part One here]

Cases of enormous importance – giant landmark rulings – are highlighted in wee little Winsted – a tiny town in northern Connecticut, home to fewer than 10,000 residents, one of them being Mr. Nader (Ralph Nader) himself. He grew up there. His education and quest for fairness began naturally. His mother Rose was a well-known activist from Winsted. She made her views known through newspaper opinion pages and beyond. Her pioneering ways clearly made an impression on her son Ralph, and the fact this museum – evidently the only law museum operating in the US – was established in their town is a fitting feat indeed.

Advocates for the preservation of tort law will appreciate each exhibit and every bit of this American treasure. The museum, its staff and creators deserve praise for bringing it to life. Its conception was courageous. Its realization, an inspiration. It seems to have been built with equal parts of inspirational wisdom and aspirational desire. It is a museum of colour and strength that converges on the importance of accountability in law and in life, imbued with words and illustrations describing landmark rulings that were themselves the result of critically important legal efforts to make society a safer place – then, now and in the future.

The museum begins with key milestones of American history, outlining the fact that America adopted the English legal system, but that early US judges were uncomfortable over a system of liability without fault, which led the US to develop the idea of negligence in wrongdoings, i.e. torts. Obligations to pay or restore followed. Compensation for workers initially required them to prove that an injurious accident was the employer’s fault, but by 1911, as noted in the exhibits, some states began to pass compensation legislation that awarded limited monetary damages to injured workers regardless of fault. Obligations on businesses “and other defendants” – including state and local governments – expanded in the 1940s through 1960s, and strict liability followed in some cases, as did courts holding wrongdoers accountable for physical, economic and emotional harm. The roots of comparative and contributory fault/negligence took hold in the 1970s, but it was during the 1980s that businesses began to lobby against the tort system, and were successful in doing so. The museum’s resources point out that the business lobby overpowered its opponents in the political arena, which led to legislative restrictions that imposed arbitrary dollar limits on jury awards and unjustly restricted punitive damages. Social policies in the 1990s led governments to sue businesses (e.g. big tobacco companies were held accountable for the health costs created by their products).

The museum beautifully illustrates several ground-breaking legal precedents, such as the 1963 California strict liability case of Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, which established that a manufacturer of a flawed product is responsible for injuries caused by the product even if the manufacturer was not negligent in manufacturing it. Other cases highlighted (incidentally, I was told the illustrations were created by Matt Wuerker of Politico fame) include: the car accident case of Hoffman v. Jones (Florida 1973), the medical malpractice case of Canterbury v. Spence (Washington, DC 1972) and the car manufacturing case of MacPherson v. Buick (New York 1916). As the museum attests, the cases are the building blocks of righting wrongs in the United States, and the law evolves to meet the ever-changing needs of society.

Museum-goers get to watch a highly informative 11-minute film that clearly demonstrates the importance of tort law. From there, in the adjacent room ahead, several cases are described in key detail, each either famous, infamous or somewhere in between. Vitally important issues revolving around privacy rights, defamation and product liability (e.g. dangerous children’s toys) are skillfully referenced and displayed. The museum includes key praise for lawyer Edward M. Swartz (1934 – 2010) who wrote about hazards with toys and, as Nader says: “litigated and advocated for toy safety in the halls of Congress, before government agencies and through massive public education campaigns.”

The infamous McDonalds coffee case is deftly explained and explored, the injustice being what happened to the victim on many levels, all due to the wrongdoings of McDonalds and the arrogance and apathy the mega-corporation applied from the start. The light is shone on big tobacco, too. And a cherry red Chevrolet Corvair is the focal point of the last big display room, though the equally infamous Ford Pinto is also forced to a stop in the museum’s depictions.

Both my brother and I were impressed by everything the museum brought to light. The idea to make a stop there was mine, and I am grateful he played along, and I’m grateful to the people who put their hearts and souls into making the museum an important physical location for people to gain an education and appreciate the importance of civil law.

Justice has a place. 

ThisSaysItAllAMTL

Advertisements

American Museum of Tort Law: An Important Showcase – (PART 1)

Landmark Tort Cases Highlighted in Little Connecticut
Special Entry for the Verdict, edition #154 – FALL 2017 – By Bentley Doyle

Lawyers and laypeople north and south of the border, make sure to put Winsted, Connecticut on your list of places to visit when embarking on a vacation in New England, and specifically the American Museum of Tort Law. It is far more about people than the profession. As a matter of fact, people are the entire point. The museum would not have been constructed, let alone conceived of, if it weren’t for people and those who care about protecting them and preserving their right to justice.

It was the first stop on a seven-day swing through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine. This was not incidental. We flew to Hartford, then by design drove our rental car north to Winsted, setting off a great journey that began with a look at the importance of law and the enormous ways it has shaped society.

On this day, our day, my brother Dave and I were fortunate to meet both the museum’s Director of Engagement, Joan Bowman, and the Executive Director, Richard Newman (a past-president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association). It was a thrill to chat with them and to find out we have some mutual acquaintances scattered throughout the United States, primarily due to our experiences as members and associates of the US-based National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). Richard had recently been in Boston for AAJ’s annual general meeting and summer convention, an event I’ve participated at several times, mainly as a member of NATLE. But, even closer to home, i.e. to the American Museum of Tort Law, we have a connection in common to the museum’s creator, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, famed for being the author of Unsafe at Any Speed – an expose of the deadly dangers of the Corvair automobile, and internationally renowned for his life’s work of holding reckless corporations accountable for the products they create. He is also a former candidate for the US Presidency (and wouldn’t that be a great thing right now, a time when more than ever the US needs a good, smart and thoughtful person in the White House).

Nader is famous for what he has done throughout the past 50 years, but it was events 20 years ago that made things personal for me. We – the Trial Lawyers Association of BC – brought Mr. Nader to British Columbia three times due to a big battle in our province to oppose no-fault auto insurance. The first two occasions had him making public appearances and doing media interviews to counter the spin created by proponents of no-fault back in that day. Nader was then – as he has demonstrated many times before and since – simultaneously brilliant and selfless. He warned of the dehumanizing effects of no-fault insurance, a scheme he said treated people like property rather than as human beings.

I had the honour of driving Mr. Nader to and from events in and around Vancouver, including picking him up at the airport with a highly enthused team of TLABC reps along for the ride. I was terrified, of course. I mean, being a young-in at the wheel chauffeuring the sophisticated author of 1965’s Unsafe at Any Speed… well, it certainly wasn’t sans stress, albeit the experience was also exhilarating. The third time Nader came to Vancouver was to join us in celebrating the defeat of no-fault plans that had been threatening to upend the legal rights of individuals. That occasion was 20 years ago this August. I was honoured to drive him back to the airport, just him and I in the car, and I handed him a personal card of thanks when we parted. It is remarkable to be in the presence of a man with so much professional success to his name and to see him also be so humble. The Nader experience that year had another highlight. He had asked us, in advance of arriving, to set up a speaking engagement for him to make a presentation to the law students at the University of British Columbia. The school’s faculty of law was happy to oblige, of course. The room was packed, as you’d expect. A few of us from TLABC had the good fortune of being on hand for this special event. Nader’s passion for legal efforts conducted for public good was never more clear than on this day. He spoke with larger-than-life enthusiasm, wisdom, grace and humour. His prior efforts in sounding warnings against no-fault had been superb, no question, but this occasion was a convergence of everything he stood for and still stands for to this day. He had the time and the perfect place to talk about the importance of tort law. It was majestic. The law students were spellbound.

Today, with the American Museum of Tort Law that he created now two years old, Mr. Nader continues to lead America as a voice for safety, fairness and accountability. An American gem – the man and his museum.

For certain, the museum does justice to justice. If you get your chance, a couple hours there will do it justice. Lawyers, you will be even prouder of your noble profession. Laypeople, you will gain an understanding of why tort law and the principle of accountability are both so relevant to your lives.    (Stay tuned for PART 2)

More to come… stay tuned for our next post!

@tla_bc

Women Lawyers ReTWEET

12096600_905944192788722_5277722824495503308_n

It’s that time of year again!

As we lead up to the 12th annual Women Lawyers Retreat, which will be held this October at Nita Lake Lodge, in Whistler, we invite you to participate in the ever-popular Women Lawyers ReTWEET!

The Retweet is a fun way to connect our members and community, and encourage collaboration, inspiration and discussion.  This year, the Retweet will compliment our new initiative – Wellness In the Workplaceand we would encourage you to consider how wellness plays a role in both your personal and professional life.  As we support and inspire each other, we fuel the fires of success.

Post or send your favourite links, websites, quotes, tips or photos… anything that inspires you as a professional and as a woman.

There are 3 easy ways to participate…

  1.  Follow us on Twitter @tla_bc, Facebook (TLABC) & (TLABC Women), and on Instagram (tlabc)
  2.  Use the hashtag #TLABC_women or tag us in your posts that inspire you as a woman & a professional!
  3.  Send us your favourite posts, images, articles, photos or quotes and we will include them in our posts.  Please email megan@tlabc.org

 

Newsroom

media

At #TLABC our mission is to support and promote the rights of individuals in British Columbia.

 

Here’s a quick round-up of what’s been in the news lately:

 Sept 8th

https://www.biv.com/article/2017/9/ndp-swerves-around-no-fault-fix-icbc-finances/

Aug 31st 

https://www.biv.com/article/2017/8/icbc-given-two-weeks-refine-premium-hike-proposals/

Aug 14th

http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/questions-and-answers-with-b-c-attorney-general-david-eby

Aug 13th

http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/icbc-in-crisis-once-lauded-auto-insurer-is-a-mess-on-path-to-insolvency#link_time=1502639172

Aug 9th

Opinion: What ails ICBC and how to fix it

Aug 4th

http://www.news1130.com/2017/08/04/bcs-attorney-general-vows-clean-mess-left-icbc/

Aug 3rd

http://www.icbc.com/about-icbc/newsroom/Pages/2017-Aug3.aspx

July 30th

https://www.straight.com/news/942631/gabriel-yiu-fixing-icbc

July 25th

https://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/insurance/insurance-corporation-b-c-financial-condition-seriously-compromised-basic-autoplan-needs-redesign-ey-1004117888/

July 24th

http://vancouversun.com/storyline/ndp-promise-to-fix-icbc-amid-spectre-of-rate-hikes

July 21st

http://www.theprovince.com/news/politics/icbc+rates+soar+unless+there+major+reforms/13832620/story.html

April 20th

http://theprovince.com/opinion/columnists/mike-smyth-in-response-to-ndps-deceit-liberal-minister-spouts-alternative-facts

March 31st

http://www.thelawyersweekly.ca/articles/3755

March 3rd

http://www.icbc.com/about-icbc/newsroom/Pages/2017-Mar3-01.aspx

March 2nd

http://www.news1130.com/2017/03/02/new-plan-aims-combat-distracted-driving-canada/

 March 1st

http://www.nsnews.com/opinion/columnists/baldrey-get-ready-for-massive-icbc-rate-hikes-1.10685159

Jan 27th

http://www.delta-optimist.com/opinion/icbc-s-claims-philosophy-is-in-need-of-a-complete-overhaul-1.9104127

 Jan 26th

http://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-liberals-in-no-rush-dealing-with-icbc-matters

 2016

Dec 21st

http://theprovince.com/opinion/columnists/mike-smyth-liberals-seek-cover-as-icbc-premiums-go-up-up-and-away

Dec 2nd

http://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/pete-mcmartin-icbcs-death-by-a-thousand-fender-benders

 Dec 7th

http://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/pete-mcmartin-medical-reports-make-up-major-chunk-of-icbc-expenditure-insiders-reveal

Nov 29th

http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-unshackle-icbc-from-politics-1.3341544

Nov 24th

http://theprovince.com/opinion/columnists/mike-smyth-ignore-the-distractions-voters-can-handle-the-truth-on-icbc-rate-hikes

http://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-heres-betting-victoria-finds-a-way-to-duck-icbc-questions-till-after-election?__lsa=ef48-c886

https://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/premier-defends-icbc-no-plans-privatize-bring-no-fault-insurance/

Nov 23rd

http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-be-prepared-for-icbc-rate-increase-shock-1.3101218?platform=hootsuite

Nov 22nd

http://www.news1130.com/2016/11/22/icbc-predictions-future-basic-rates/

Sept 13th – Letter to the Editor

http://vancouversun.com/opinion/letters/sept-13-housing-attracting-talent-icbc-riley-park-sex-case-judge?729581952

 Sept 7th

https://omny.fm/shows/the-simi-sara-show/public-car-insurers-justify-jacking-up-rates-with?sc_ref=twitter

Aug 30th (2016)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/icbc-insurance-rates-distracted-driving-1.3740119

https://omny.fm/shows/steele-drex/icbc-rate-hikes-we-chat-with-a-claims-lawyer

Wellness in the Workplace

#TLABCWellness

This fall, we will be talking about Mental Health in our 154th issue of the Verdict and teamed with this, we are launching a Wellness in the Workplace initiative at TLABC. We will begin this new initiative, by asking you… our members and our readers… How do you get your health on?

With the fall issue of the Verdict, we hope to provide some insight into how some of our TLABC members and staff are answering this question. Travel, theatre, un-anticipated illness and injury are all circumstances that have inspired some of our TLABC members and staff to think about their health (physical and mental) and wellness a little bit more critically. We’d like to encourage you to do the same.

While health and wellness can often be seen as an inside job, we cannot underestimate the impact we have on one another.

We, at TLABC, want to encourage our members to live well, so that we can also work well. We want to create environments where wellness in the workplace is encouraged, and health (both physical and mental) can be made a priority.

Remember that at TLABC we are a team and:

T – ogether
E- veryone
A  – chieves
M – ore

To get involved in this initiative, we encourage you to send us your photos, stories or favourite wellness posts and tag #TLABCwellness on Twitter and Instagram! Email megan@tlabc.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter@tla_bc for more information.

Business Man Relaxing On The Beach

TLABC Membership Director

We are pleased to welcome a new addition to the #TLABC Team – Karen St. Aubin!

StAubin_Karen_2015

Karen is joining us as Membership Director and will be your go-to gal for all things that support our roster of over 1500 members.  (You can reach her at karen@tlabc.org)

You may recognize her from the Canadian Bar Association, working in Events & Community Relations.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we wanted to share with you some very important information we’ve recently learned about our new colleague… Enjoy!

Favourite colour? Blue

Favourite band/type of music? Oohhh…I’m all over the map on this one as there’s not much I don’t like…but you can never go wrong with cheesy 70s rock

What do you like to do to unwind outside of work? Enjoy the outdoor beauty of this amazing city…the seawall, third beach…but a guilty pleasure trashy reality TV show isn’t all bad, either

What is something on your bucket list? Going on an African safari

Dream travel destination, or favourite place you’ve already been?
(The) Mediterranean

Welcome to the TLABC Team!

It’s Been Awhile…

2017 has been a busy and political year here at TLABC!

We have been active in our campaign to End Distracted Driving, (please visit www.distracteddrivingkills.ca) – and have been focusing on political engagement and some very important justice-related campaigns, which we will be able to update you on soon.

As we move into the fall season, we have some exciting new initiatives to share, a jam-packed seminar season, and will be re-launching this site across all of our social media channels!

(We also have some new additions to the team!)

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest & Twitter (@tla_bc) for campaign updates, association issues, member perspective and our new wellness focus, “Wellness in the Workplace!”  #TLABCwellness 

Stay tuned and enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

IMG_1871

Distracted Driving is the new Drunk Driving

1829_480677068659625_682155021_n

“When you are driving—it should not be a secondary task, it should be the only task.”

 – Joel Feldman, creator of End Distracted Driving www.enddd.org

This is not an exaggeration.  Distracted driving has overtaken driving under the influence by a shocking margin.  In fact, incidents involving distracted driving have surpassed driving under the influence at least six fold.  International research shows that 20-30 per cent of all collisions involve driver distraction.

“The moment you take your eyes off the road and your hand off the wheel you don’t have your full attention on the road, which can pose a danger to you and those around you,”  – Kristine Simpson, manager of public affairs at the Canadian Automobile Association.

This is not only texting, but any activity that reduces your ability to focus 100% on the task of driving – in fact, we need to be reminded that even changing the radio station, adjusting your GPS, eating or even putting on makeup are distracting and can be fatal.

TLABC is proud to partner with the End Distracted Driving a program developed by Joel Feldman, a litigator from the US, who lost his beautiful daughter in a distracted driving incident.  Following this horrible loss, Joel created End Distracted Driving – a program designed to be presented in schools, by lawyers, in order to begin to create an effective dialogue about one of the most pervasive driving issues of the past decade.

TLABC is dedicated to creating awareness and bringing attention to distracted driving and TLABC members have been participating in presentations around the province that are geared toward preventing these senseless tragedies.

For more information, or to get involved, please contact the TLABC office at:
604-682-5343, or visit our website www.tlabc.org

1829_480677068659625_682155021_n

Politics & Passion

[Excerpt from the Fall Issue of the TLABC Verdict] – out now! 

There’s a feeling in the air when summer fades and fall begins… that back-to-school ‘something’ that is crisp and busy and smells like falling leaves and hot apple pie.  Warm afternoons turn into cool, dark evenings and calendars fill up again with meetings, fundraising and campaign strategy.

In short, Fall hits – and it’s go-time.

Not that summer was all that quiet around here- we had multiple retreats and conferences going on for the TLABC Staff, the Board & Executive, and some of our campaign committees, (albeit with a few vacation days tacked on.)  We had staff in Los Angeles and Seattle, Washington, Squamish, the Yukon and Osoyoos, and we’ve been examining our goals and planning for the year ahead, but the work has been strategic and internal and now it’s time for action.

I was fortunate to attend a conference in LA this past July and was asked to present to the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) on behalf of TLABC.  The meetings were in conjunction with the American Association of Justice (AAJ) and were also book-ended by the GOP and Democratic National Conventions.  It was definitely a busy week in California, and there was an undeniable buzz that distinctly reminded me of my very first AAJ/NATLE trip – pre-US election, 4 years ago.  It was the same conference, but in Chicago – just before Obama’s second term. Now, let’s not get it twisted – this particular buzz was not exactly the same.  4 years ago, it felt exciting and hopeful and I was fascinated by the entire business… whereas this time, it simply seemed to stem from fear.

Fear is a powerful thing.  It’s palpable.  You could feel it in the media, as stories broke about even more racism, more crimes of hate and gender, and in the ongoing antics of that man-who-shall-not-be-named.  You could feel it in the public perception as they carefully went about their days, avoiding the conversation as often as possible, completely unsure of what is to come.  Everyone seemed to be reacting to a series of sometimes silent, but very tangible threats to their society, often with humour, but always in fear.

Well, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my time at TLABC, is that fear does not fuel change – only passion does.

At TLABC, through our PAC fund, we are constantly working against threats to our justice system, and our members remain diligent in monitoring what may be coming down the pipe.  We want to make change – to protect our citizens – to strive towards better access to justice.  These are no small things.  But success lies in our passion and subsequently, our action.

I’ve heard time after time, that TLABC was founded by a “small group of renegades” – lawyers who truly believed in justice and in the access of it.  These lawyers did not act out of fear, but of concern for their clients and a passion for their practice.  As time goes on and more battles arise to be fought, it is imperative that we remember to do the same.

There are other groups and organizations who are better suited to predictable action and reaction – TLABC is not one of them.  The work continues, not out of fear of the unknown, or of systematic dissolution, but because it is the right thing to do.

As an association, we will rise to the challenges ahead and show time and again our commitment to justice.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – Barack Obama

If you want to show your own “Passion And Commitment”then consider making a donation the TLABC PAC fund so that we can take action when the threats to our justice system arise.  Let’s not just sit back, in fear…

Let’s give them something to talk about.

Make a commitment to justice.

[PLEASE NOTE: This was originally published pre- US election]

To donate to the TLABC PAC Fun, please contact megan@tlabc.org

LawyersHelpingPeople