I am writing in response to the op-ed by Tiger Joyce, the president of the American Tort Reform Association, a group that represents tobacco companies, the insurance industries and chemical makers ("Fighting Fraudulent Lawsuits," Oct. 16). ATRA is one of the best-funded tort reform lobbying groups in the country and, as the saying goes, it is often wrong but never in doubt.
For decades, ATRA has disguised itself as a grassroots movement of concerned citizens. It uses outrageous and unverifiable claims, scare tactics and misleading statistics to push its long-term agenda: denial of access to the courts. When it is questioned or has its claims debunked, it simply moves onto another accusation.
The claim that attorneys "lie" to get into court is simply not true and belied by the facts and common sense. Not only are there strict ethics guidelines for attorneys, and severe penalties for breaking them -- something notably absent from the professions Mr. Joyce is representing -- but plaintiff attorneys also do not receive payment or even reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs unless the case is successful. Why would anyone risk losing money for a questionable claim? Moreover, Mr. Joyce's argument that the jurors who make most decisions are routinely duped is an insult to everyone who does his or her civic duty.
Mr. Joyce closes his piece with a line that should be better applied to ATRA's financial backers: Only when those who cause harm to another, whether purposely, through negligence or malpractice, face significant risk and multimillion-dollar consequences for their actions will they be stopped. That is what our court system does: protects people from the harm some of Mr. Joyce's backers cause.
Pennsylvania Association for Justice