Tort Reform or Civil Rights Violation?

Recently in the Montgomery Advertiser, a column appeared which points out how recent legislation passed by Alabama’s elected officials may take away your rights as a citizen to a fair trial by jury. The columnist notes that the restrictions “reduce the statute of limitations on some suits, prohibit suits against businesses that merely sell a harmful product, reduce post-judgment interest rates, prohibit ‘forum shopping’ for wrongful death cases and redefine the standards set for expert testimony.” In other words, so-called “tort reform.” As pointed out in a recent documentary film that premiered on HBO, Hot Coffee, the tort reform movement is little more than a very successful public relations effort on the part of big business. Backed by millions of dollars of corporate money and filtered through groups with names that imply grass-roots citizen efforts, this movement has slowly but surely stripped away an individual’s right to their day in court. Legislation that puts caps on damages also strips the jury of its intended power to level the playing field and provide an unbiased and uninfluenced decision on matters of civil justice. Of Alabama’s new laws, which are added to existing laws that cap punitive damages in Alabama at $1.5 million, Moon writes, “The message from politicians to businesses is clear. If you’ll bring jobs to Alabama, we don’t mind if you defraud our citizens, sell us products that will kill us, operate in a careless way, or generally do whatever it is you’d like to do to increase profits.”