Why We Fight

The following is a piece written by lawyer, Mike Campbell, a member of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (MATA) – our cousin association in Missouri.  

For those who may need a reminder, at times like these…

 

WHY WE FIGHT – By Mike Campbell, MATA

“Can you draw the pedal for me?”

That’s the only question I can remember from my deposition. I was around nine years old and I wasn’t frightened by the man asking me questions, or by the scary person wearing a mask at the end of the table (who I would later discover was a court reporter). I was frightened because I had no artistic ability whatsoever. I could, at that time, remember watching the pedal break and witnessing my dad have a catastrophic injury that would later take his life.

I could remember my dad work on the pedal in our garage in Kansas City. But, I couldn’t draw it and I was scared. But, then I heard, “objection.” Relief came over me. You see, I had a superhero with me, watching over me, protecting me from scary questions and scary people.

I recently had to fill out a questionnaire asking me to explain why I wanted to practice law. Here’s my response:

“Many years ago my family experienced a tragedy that put us right in the middle of the legal world. As a result, my superheroes growing up did not wear capes; they wore suits and carried briefcases. They argued in courtrooms and fought tooth and nail for my family. I’ll always be indebted to those attorneys and I think they know that. That’s the power we have as attorneys and we should always remember the lifelong impact we have on our clients.”

That’s the truth. That’s my truth, anyway. 

When I was five years old my dad purchased a brand new bicycle from a bike shop in Kansas. Both my godfather and I agreed to ride back in my dad’s truck while my dad rode behind us at a safe distance. I watched through the rear window as he wrecked. Memories are funny, though. I can no longer recall the wreck or much that happened shortly after. There’s a slideshow of memories though: Wrestling with my dad in a hospital bed one of the numerous times he was having surgeries, meeting with attorneys, my dad’s funeral. Good memories, sad memories.

My dad suffered a catastrophic injury when the pedal on his brand-new bicycle snapped off halfway through a cycle. He fell into the bike and suffered substantial internal injuries. He was later treated at a medical facility in Kansas, and his care was completely mismanaged. There are things that happened to him that I cannot write out of respect for his privacy and for what he went through. However, the result of the doctor’s actions led to undetected blood clotting, which traveled to an artery. He suffered a massive heart attack in our home and died in my mom’s arms.

My mom was left to raise four kids, alone. We had limited means at that time and my dad had been the primary provider for my family. When my dad died, we were broke…mentally, spiritually and financially.

Before my dad died, I can remember wearing clothes from the Salvation Army, shopping for food at the local Aldi (before Aldi was a thing), going to mass every Sunday morning and not having many concerns about our lot in life. We were a family and we loved each other, and had a roof over our head and food to eat. My dad and my mom cared for us. When my dad died, I’ll never know the stress my mom went through. I never want to know.

A close friend of the family talked to my mom about investigating my dad’s case. He was an attorney with a law firm in Kansas City who pleaded with his firm to investigate this case. The background to this is literally something you might read in a legal novel, but know this: This lawyer was relentless, was willing to give up everything to fight for the case, and nearly did. There is too much to the story to share here, but that is where I came to know that the passion which drives good and decent trial attorneys is not money. Money comes and goes. What drives good and decent trial attorneys is justice and a desire to help the helpless.

This attorney discovered a number of troubling things when he investigated our case. First, the bike manufacturer skimped on buying the proper parts for the bicycle pedal-and-gear mechanism. Instead of finding the right part, the company ordered the employees at a manufacturing plant to literally jam and hammer the defective parts into the bike. Our lawyer went to the manufacturing plant and witnessed for himself how the defect occurred during the process, and how it was known to the company. The employees openly admitted that they knew the defective part would cause harm to someone and told management, who ignored them.

The bike company had been warned multiple times about the shaft snapping on the pedals, leading to bicycle returns at stores throughout the United States. The manufacturer never recalled the bikes. Either the company didn’t believe someone could be catastrophically injured from this defect or it did, and simply did the cold math: A potential lawsuit versus a nationwide recall of bicycles. They decided to go with the risk of a lawsuit. Our attorney also discovered that the doctor who was treating my dad permanently damaged him, the result of which would eventually lead to my dad’s death. The attorney was convinced that both the manufacturer and the doctor were responsible for my dad’s death. He talked with my mom at length about the steps the family should take to hold those parties responsible. My mom agreed and we eventually filed suit against both.

My mom is as mentally and physically tough as they come. Here’s one story to prove that: After my family filed suit against the manufacturer of the defective bicycle, our case was forced into mediation. In our case, the judge who was mediating the case told my mom she should take a certain amount of money and run. Our attorneys told her to stand firm, that the sum she was offered was paltry in light of how much we had lost. My mom listened to our attorney’s advice. The judge brought her into an open courtroom in front of all the attorneys and told her that she was a terrible mother for not accepting the settlement and then he actually appointed a guardian and conservator for her children (including me) because of how terrible he said her judgment was. Our attorneys protected her and she believed in them.  The judge eventually relented and retracted his own order. My mom trusted her attorneys. She was right to… and she will tell you that. My mom is tough.

There are other stories I can tell you: Spending my early childhood in courtrooms, law offices, and learning about lawsuits while other kids played catch with their dad or did what normal kids do. I enjoyed it though. My attorneys were my superheroes. I liked being around them. I started to think that one day I could become one too.

When our case against the manufacturer was finally resolved several years later, we had received a small amount of justice. The manufacturer of the bicycle eventually settled with my family… and with several others. It turns out many people had been injured by these defective bikes and the company’s calculated risks didn’t pay off. There are horror stories I could share about this case and the dirty tricks played by the actors involved that are nearly unbelievable. Someday, maybe I’ll share them.

John Grisham has done a pretty decent job describing cruel company decisions in many of his books. But know this: A company that makes its financial decisions by weighing a human life versus profits will go to any lengths to protect those profits. I’ve seen this first-hand in my own practice and in my own life.  The cases against this specific corporation against eventually drove it into bankruptcy, got its terrible bikes off the road, and reformed certain manufacturing processes.

All of this was possible because of the trial lawyers who helped us. They believed in us, fought for us and did everything they could to make our family whole. I am friends with them to this day. The main attorney who took our case taught me how to shoot a gun for the first time, his wife taught me the alphabet when I was very young and he has stayed in touch throughout my entire life. He and his family are family to me.

I see a lot of negative talk about trial attorneys. For me, for my family, and for countless others, trial attorneys are who stood up and demanded that the parties who cause harm are held responsible for their actions.

No amount of money could bring my dad back, but at least that bicycle manufacturer was unable to produce any more defective bikes. While the rest of the world moved on after my dad’s death, attorneys working in the background fought to give his death meaning. They fought for a single mother of four who had no money to her name.

I am now a trial attorney. I am proud to call myself a trial attorney. But trial attorneys are under attack.  We are told by well-paid politicians that trial attorneys are causing businesses to go under and insurance rates to go up. My experience is that businesses go under because they are bad businesses, and insurance rates go up because insurance companies like to make money.

The people who throw these accusations around don’t know the attorneys who helped my mom and my family. They don’t know me. They don’t know my colleagues. They don’t understand that most of the laws they pass don’t affect trial attorneys; they affect the people trial attorneys represent. These politicians work to the benefit of a corporation or a company that has done some harm or wants to do something harmful, only cheaper and with no consequence.

Politicians should know this: There’s no law they can pass to stop trial attorneys from trying cases and working hard for their clients. I can understand how a politician who is more accountable to large donors than to the citizens of his or her district might be told (or even believe) that a trial attorney would have a financial motive to file more lawsuits. Maybe that mistaken perspective is all they have known.

But, real trial lawyers like the attorneys who worked on my family’s case and the colleagues I know in our profession are not in it for the money. We are deeply passionate about our clients and our work. No amount of restrictions or laws will stop us from helping people who have been wronged. We are born with this passion… and politicians cannot legislate that passion away, no matter how hard they try.

I recently tried a civil case where the jury was out for 20 minutes before it returned a verdict against my client. It takes me longer than 20 minutes to flip through my Facebook feed! I was heartbroken for my client. I thought that the jury hated me. They hate what I stand for. I thought, for just a moment, that it would be so much easier to switch sides.

Then my client told me “thanks” for fighting for her; that we did our best; and that she glad we agreed not to settle. And my phone started to ring from fellow trial lawyers who told me to keep my chin up and told me that we all fight in the trenches to keep the other side honest.

I would much rather be on this side. We are told that there are always two sides to an issue, two sides to a debate. I don’t say this arrogantly, but I say it because of my experience: I would much rather be on this side and lose, than on the other side and win. I believe that there are plenty of good people on the other side, but for me and for my fellow trial lawyers, we fight for what is right and what is good.

We don’t fight to win popularity contests, for approval or for self-assurances. We fight for the inviolate principle that every person deserves his or her day in court. We have a proud responsibility to strap up our boots, face our fears and give that opportunity to our clients. What a great privilege that is. I am thankful for having a trial attorney in my corner to give my family that opportunity and daily I am grateful for the ability to give that same opportunity to my clients. I know you, my trial attorney family, feel that way too.

This is why we fight.

 

 

Mike Campbell is a member of the Missouri Association for Trial Attorneys and the American Association for Justice. He practices at The Law Office of Mike Campbell in Columbia, Mo.

 Reprinted with permission from The Missouri Trial Attorney, © 2017

 

Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) Re-cap

Each November, the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ) hold their annual Governmental Affairs Conference – commonly known as the GAC.  This year, we sent our new Public Affairs Director, Todd Hauptman, to get the scoop on all things political, as we continue to develop our own strategy, here at TLABC.

This is what he had to say…

 

In his own words – Todd Hauptman 

 

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Have you ever imagined attending a conference full of the nerdiest individuals in your profession? The National Association of Trial Lawyers Executives (NATLE) Government Affairs conference was certainly that for me.  I recently attended their conference in Seattle that hosted public affairs professionals for Trial Lawyers Associations from across the United States.  I was the only Canadian in attendance so I felt as though I was representing an entire country.  While the conference had a number of detailed and engaging presentations, the most beneficial part of me was the networking.

The network was helpful to not only learn best practices from other TLAs in their advocacy efforts to their elected officials, but also to better understand working within an association environment like ours.  I spoke and spent time with colleagues from Ohio to Rhode Island to San Francisco and grew to appreciate each of their passion and determination.  Many of these folks have been passionately fighting for access to justice issues for decades and they continue to do so.  By having conversations with these folks, there is so much insight and experience to glean from. The most significant lesson from these political nerds was the importance of being determined in building solid, long term relationships with each and every one of the elected officials in our area.  While there will be wins and losses in the fight for our public policy agenda, it is essential to look at the long game. I had the opportunity to see some of them in action on the phone with decision makers and they get things done for their members.  These relationships took time to develop into a place where there can be mutual benefits.  This may be the most significant lesson but there are others.

These relationships were built through a deliberate strategy that involved targeted political donations, delivering volunteer resources for campaigns and helping legislators push their agenda forward.  While this is certainly in an American context, there are lessons for Canadians to learn.  Certainly our donation limits are a lot less than the United Stations, money still talks in politics.  It is important to donate to candidates in a strategic fashion.  Strategic donations matters because the candidates need to know where their resources for their campaign came from. The NATLE conference reinforced for me the importance of finding common ground on our agenda and the legislator’s priorities. The issues that NATLE and TLABC are working towards should have support from all parties no matter where they are on the political spectrum.  It was helpful to know that the strategies and approaches that TLABC is pursuing are on the right track.

The connections and relationships developed at NATLE will not only be once a year but in fact, I have a few meetings by phone or online with various colleagues to discuss mutual strategy.  These ongoing relationships will be fruitful not just in my role but for TLABC as we move forward with our public policy agenda.

Finally, it is critical to note that like all of our NATLE friends, we must continue to be seen and heard by our MLAs.  As a TLABC member over the holiday season, go to your MLA’s seasonal open house and have a friendly chat about the issues important to us, such as legal aid and wrongful death legislation.  Be a friendly face that your MLA begins to know and appreciate seeing.  While we may disagree on some issues, we can be allies on others.

ROAD BC #SayNoToCaps

TLABC proudly supports ROAD BC and we encourage you to do the same – ICBC and the provincial government have recently stated their intention to strip you of your rights by implementing injury caps for drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians who are injured in a collision with an automobile.

We firmly believe that this is not the right approach.

Caps punish victims.
_

Road BC has nearly reached 15,000 signatures.
Say no to the Government’s unfair caps on injury claims, sign the petition now at

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R.O.A.D. BC is a coalition of British Columbians who are committed to protecting the rights of anyone who becomes injured on our roads. We are made up of individuals and associations all across British Columbia who believe the best way to reduce accidents and protect victims is through established, inalienable rights – not arbitrary decisions that turn real people into a statistic.

 

Proudly supported by more than 50 community partners including:

3 Peaks Health
Absolute Health Clinic
Actin Physiotherapy and Wellness
Active8 Physio & Massage
AIM Medical Imaging
Alaunius Integrated Medicine
Association for Injured Motorcyclists
Back in Motion
BC Back Clinic
Bear Creek Physio
Better Body Fitness
Bikram Yoga Delta
BrainTrust Canada
Campbell River Head Injury Support Society
Canadian Medi-Pain Centres
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Clover Hills Rehabilitation
Coast Life Chiropractic
Elite Health and Wellness
Fit Body Rehab
Fraser Valley Reporting
Fraser Valley Soccer League
Get Well Physio
Harvey Gill Real Estate (Remax)
Injury Rehab Clinic
Insight Driving Solutions
Insight Optometry and Occupational Therapy
Karp Health Services
Kelly Mooker Counselling
Kinexions
Kwantlen Rehab

Langley Sports and Rehab
March of Dimes Canada
Med-Rehab Solutions​
Medical Legal Society of British Columbia
Mountainview Health and Wellness Ltd
Nanaimo Brain Injury Society
Nova Health
Oceanview Home Care Services Ltd
Optimal Chiropractic & Massage
Pain BC
People in Pain Network
Prana Physiotherapy
Pro Ride Motorcycle Training
Pure Life Physiotherapy
Revive Rehabilitation
Sahara Rehab Consulting Ltd.
Salius Rehab
Sikh Motorcycle Club
Sikh Riders of Canada
Singh Physiotherapy
Strength Through Motion
Synergy Rehab
Total Care Health
Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia
The BC Paralegal Association
The Mel Jr. & Marty Zajac Foundation
The Whiplash and Injury Clinic
Vancouver ecoVillage
Vancouver Independent Professionals Society
Wellspring Fibromyalgia Foundation
Working Gear

Caps Punish Victims

Say No To Capping Our Rights!

Being injured can change your life and the lives of those around you. The path to recovery is often long, difficult and expensive. Currently, in BC, everyone, and every incident is treated and assessed uniquely.

However, ICBC and the provincial government want to change that and restrict the rights of drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians in BC by introducing injury caps. This will reduce our ability to be treated as individuals, and to seek out help when navigating the daunting process of an injury claim.

Stand with us to ensure our rights don’t get capped.

Contact your MLA

R.O.A.D. BC is a coalition of British Columbians who are committed to protecting the rights of anyone who becomes injured on our roads. We are made up of individuals and associations all across British Columbia who believe the best way to reduce accidents and protect victims is through established, inalienable rights – not arbitrary decisions that turn real people into a statistic.

Visit the site for more information and join on Facebook & Twitter!

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An Overview of the NATLE GAC

Well, he’s only been here a month, but our new CEO, Shawn Mitchell, has been working tirelessly to acclimatize and immerse himself in the TLABC issues, culture and team.

A bonus to having new eyes in the boardroom is, of course, fresh perspective.
TLABC, as an association, is proud to be founded on principle, and in many ways -tradition.  Tradition is a wonderful thing, but it’s always good to take a step back and see what’s working and what might benefit from a little restructuring.

Shawn comes to us with a wealth of leadership experience that will no doubt be indispensable as we move forward and it has been a real pleasure getting to know him.

In this spirit, Shawn attended one of our favourite events last week, along with incoming President Sonny Parhar and Director of Communications Bentley Doyle The National Association of Trial Lawyers Executives (NATLE) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) – this year held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Here’s what he had to say… 

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Intro

I’ve just gotten back from the National Association of Trial Lawyers Executives (NATLE) Governmental Affairs Conference. What members of the association lovingly refer to as the GAC (say: gack). The location of the conference changes every year — this year’s was held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Attended by 100 TLA CEOs, their presidents and government affairs-aligned senior staff, the GAC was a great opportunity to network, learn how other TLAs go about their business, and attend a range of sessions focused on the challenge of lobbying government (both state and federal).

There were a total of 22 presentations and round tables, covering a range of topics and issues, during the three-day event. A sampling:

    • Learning the language of the conservative culture (presented by Judge Kenneth Starr — yes, THAT Kenneth Starr)
    • Effective polling
    • Creative ways to build relationships with lawmakers
    • Engaging leaders and members in the legislative process — making it meaningful and creating evangelists
    • Workers’ compensation trends to watch
    • Self-driving vehicles
    • Subrogation for dummies
    • Managing member expectations in the legislative arena

Taken from these and other sessions in which I participated, a few thoughts …

Trumped

Almost without exception, American TLAs spent the last eight years doubling down on their relationships with Democrats and largely turning their backs on Republicans. After the election results in 2016, most woke up terrified and unsure of what the future held for them when it came to advancing a legislative agenda on behalf of their members. Much of the conference was about sharing best practices on how to “speak Republican.”

Born to lobby

I was also struck by the very different posture or business orientation of the American TLAs, compared to (what I am coming to understand about) Canadian TLAs. Even small associations are heavily invested in ongoing lobbying on a range of issues. The eye opener here for me was both the difference and the potential for us to explore being more invested in this activity beyond ad hoc campaigns.

Everything is poll-itical

Given the extent to which TLAs are involved in lobbying, it follows that they are also becoming increasingly invested in polling and “testing the message.” There were a number of sessions on this topic, linking polling research to focus groups and the importance of not saying anything publicly on an issue until you’d tested your ideas and language in the field. Here again, at TLABC we have not had a history of behaving this way, but certainly we have seen the benefit of it most recently in the guidance we gained while positioning ourselves regarding no-fault and fixing the financial imbalance at ICBC.

No such thing as being too social

Our neighbours to the south are also heavily invested in social media, using Facebook and Twitter to cultivate audiences in support of different positions they are lobbying for at the state or federal levels of government. The insight here is that we at TLABC need to keep doing what we are doing — social media is a powerful, cost-effective engagement tool.

(Think James Carville, here) It’s about the membership, stupid!

One area where I believe we at TLABC still have lots of room to grow is on member engagement. American TLAs work very hard to be highly responsive to their members’ concerns and to engage them in the association’s work — beyond just the board and executive. They also have communication strategies that are focused on demonstrating the value that members receive from their TLA. This is something that TLABC does not do enough of.

Wrap up

Finally, there were some specific legal issues that were discussed where there is some real concern amongst our American colleagues… the emergence of “robot cars” and the implications this might have on liability and personal injury, and the continuing saga that is ABS (Alternative Business Structures). While we are currently focused, rightly, on fixing ICBC, additional time and energy on moving our way through these issue areas may also have merit.

Overall, it was an excellent way for me to continue my orientation and onboarding at TLABC. And, as always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on this post or anything else you might like to fire my way.

To reach CEO Shawn Mitchell, please email him at shawn@tlabc.org 

Please continue to connect with us by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIN & @tla_bc on Twitter. 

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

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