Friday, February 5, 2016

Ralph Nader and the American Museum of Tort Law

Ralph Nader, the Harvard-educated attorney and consumer advocate, has been known for numerous achievements, but perhaps his most enduring legacy will be as the Nation’s first and true consumer advocate. In 1959 his article, quite critical of the automobile industry, “The Safe Car You Can’t Buy” was published in the Nation. However, the book that brought him national acclaim and established him as America’s true consumer advocate was “Unsafe At Any Speed” and particularly the first chapter of that book, “The Sporty Corvair - The One Car Accident.” It was the Corvair that was involved in numerous accidents and 100 lawsuits against General Motors. Most experts now agree it was truly “unsafe at any speed.”

Nader’s advocacy on behalf of American consumers has been the cornerstone of his career. Now with the establishment of the American Museum of Tort Law located in Winsted, Connecticut, his hometown, quantifies the benefits to our society of Tort Law and specifically highlights numerous cases benefitting consumers. A Tort is a legal wrong committed upon the person or property independent of contract. It may be either (1) a direct invasion of some legal right of the individual; (2) the infarction of some public duty by which special damage accrues to the individual; (3) the violation of some private obligation by which like damage accrues to the individual - Black’s Law Dictionary.

The vision of the museum is set out by Professor Joseph A. Page, who writes “Tort Law is a system of law that governs claims by victims for harm caused by wrong doing. It is a wide tent that covers automobile collisions, airplane crashes, slips and falls in supermarkets, mishaps caused by defective products, faulty treatment by healthcare providers, toxic chemical spills, loud noise made by inconsiderate neighbors, police brutality, dog bites, gruesome practical jokes, sexual harassment, false statements, ruining a persons reputation, violations of an individuals right to be left alone, theft of trade secrets, fraudulent business practices perpetrated by one competitor against another and a host of other situations that result in the infliction of bodily, emotional or poorly financial harm.” According to Professor Page, Tort Law is as ancient as society itself, since every organized community has had to develop some kind of institutional mechanism to handle disputes arising from injuries that its members inevitably inflict upon one another. “Tort Law provides a vehicle for public vindication that conserve both plaintiffs and defendants. An injured victim or the family of the deceased victim can never be made whole by an award of money damages, but a favorable jury verdict may distow a powerful psychological benefit by assigning blame to a responsible party. Similarly, a jury verdict in a defendant’s favor can amount to a meaningful public exoneration.”

The American Museum of Tort Law provides an historical backdrop and record of Tort Law development specifically in the United States. It is the first museum of its kind in North America. The museum itself serves to educate the public as to the true history of Tort Law and the enormous benefit Tort Law and the trial by jury play in a free society. The museum debunks the fiction of the “McDonald’s Case” which became the basis for a sound-bite for talk show hosts, insurance company spokesman, and the “Corpocracy” that exists in this Country. It explains why our founding fathers thought that the right to trial by jury was important enough to include it in the Bill of Rights. It chronicles Ralph Nader’s book and how that book “Unsafe At Any Speed” actually revolutionized automobile safety.

The consumer advocate, Ralph Nader, knew the American Museum of Tort Law would honor the legacy of the “Weapon of the Weak.” Over the past 25 years, the American public has been bombarded with misinformation by certain politicians, insurance industry advertisers and multinational corporations. As a result of the ongoing misinformation and extremely well funded campaign, most Americans know little, if anything, about Tort Law, the benefits of Tort Law in a free society and the absolute right to a trial by jury so dear to our founding fathers.

The American Museum of Tort Law provides an excellent resource for an objective review of Tort Law in America, and its true benefits. The museum debunks the unfounded and unsubstantiated claims which have become the basis for the “Tort Reformers” campaign.

If you would like to learn more about the American Museum of Tort Law and Ralph Nader, please visit the following website:

--- James T. Davis

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