Wednesday, July 10, 2013

71 ALEC bills let corporations off the hook for injuring or killing people

The corporate escort service for state lawmakers known as ALEC wants corporations to become even more powerful than they already are. In this year alone, 71 -- yup, 71 -- ALEC-backed bills have been filed to make it harder for citizens to sue companies that kill, maim or sicken them.

Brendan Fischer at the Center for Media and Democracy reports,
For decades, ALEC has been a conduit for the oil, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries to push legislation that changes the rules to limit accountability when a corporation’s products or actions cause injury or death -- such as when a Koch Industries pipeline explodes and kills teenagers, or when the tobacco or pharmaceutical industries withhold evidence that their products are dangerous.
In just six months, these corporate-empowerment bills were introduced in 30 states.

Now it's a fundamental tenet of American law that someone who is injured by another has the right to pursue justice in front of a jury. ALEC wants to take away that right -- at least for citizens.

These ALEC bills limit how much a corporation must pay for injuring people:
  • The ALEC “Noneconomic Damage Awards Act” (versions of which were introduced in five states in 2013) limits the amount a jury can award to compensate a person for their diminished quality of life as the result of an injury. 
  • The misleadingly-named "Full and Fair Noneconomic Damages Act" (introduced in two states) limits the amount a corporation might have to pay to compensate a person for their pain and suffering.
  • The “Phantom Damages Elimination Act” (introduced in two states) changes the rules so a person who paid health insurance premiums for years would recover less for their medical bills than a person who had no insurance: rather than placing the full cost of paying for medical bills on the wrongdoer, the bill would reduce the amount they must pay if a person's insurance company negotiated a discount. 
This one gives immunity from certain kinds of lawsuits:
  • Ten states introduced the “Trespasser Responsibility Act,” which would largely absolve landowners from a responsibility to maintain safe premises, and tends to benefit large landowners like railroads, utility companies, and big agriculture. These large corporations would be absolved from their duty to act responsibly, and would be immune if a person accidentally wanders onto their property and are injured by poorly-maintained electrical boxes, dangerous chemicals or farm implements.
The list goes on and on. To see if your state lawmakers are considering one of ALEC's corporate empowerment bills, click here.