Congress, Nader and the Ambulance Chasers

With allies like erstwhile consumer advocate Ralph Nader and leading congressional Democrats, trial lawyers have emerged as America's fattest cats, waging war against producer and consumer alike and exerting veto power over all attempts at product-liabilty and no-fault tort reform.

American Spectator

September 1990

Last September a school busy carrying seventy children collided with a Coca-Cola delivery truck at a crossroads in Alston, Texas. The bus veered off the highway, plunged over an embankment, and crashed upside down in a gravel pit filled with water. Twenty-one of the children, the bus driver, and the truck driver were killed. It was the worst school bus accident in Texas history.

The tragedy was followed by a travesty. Hordes of trial lawyers converged on Texas and starting bidding on clients, offering the grief-stricket families traileres, van, and new homes if they would sign contingency contracts -- which guarantee lawyers a set percentage of any damages received -- to sue the deep pockets of the Coca-Cola Company and the local government that owner the gravel pit. In April a settlement for $67.5 million was reportedly reached with the families of sixteen of the students killed.

A handful of trial lawyers walked away with $25 million, earning hourly fees that ranged from $10,000 to $40,000, according to Lester Brickman, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York.

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Robert Stowe England is an author and financial journalist who has specialized in writing about financial institutions, financial markets, retirement income issues, and the financial impact of population aging.

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