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

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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

Distracted Driving is the new Drunk Driving

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“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

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