A couple weeks ago, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, gave a speech which, among other things, railed against lawsuits. He said,
Our Institute for Legal Reform is fighting the expansion of lawsuits on all fronts—in the Congress, in the federal agencies, in the states, and even around the globe where U.S. companies are getting sued.
One of the so-called “reforms” he said they are pushing is making it easier for companies to commit fraud with legal impunity.
The Chamber, as we have noted before, sues the government on average three times a week. Like the giant corporations they represent, while working to strip away the legal rights of everyday people, their lawyers sue at the smallest provocation. Indeed, Big Business makes great use of their unfettered access to the courts to recoup financial losses from trademark violations, contract breaches, patent infringements and other unfair competition claims, to property damage, lost goods, unpaid bills or, ironically, fraud. (See more examples here.)
Bloomberg took a look at the top jury awards in 2013. At the top? Not a personal injury case. It’s an anti-trust verdict: a $1.2 billion award against Dow Chemical Co. “accused of conspiring with four other companies to fix prices on chemicals used to make urethanes.” But take a look at some of the other cases. Writes Bloomberg,
The top three jury verdicts of all kinds in 2012 were in patent cases, each for $1 billion or more. The largest patent award in 2013 was for $290 million, for Apple Inc. against Samsung Electronics Co. over smartphone technology that came in the retrial of a portion of one of the 2012 verdicts.
So while patent verdicts were somewhat down somewhat from 2012,
Massive damage claims over patents remain in the litigation pipeline and will continue to bring large verdicts, said [attorney William Lee of Wilmer Hale, who represented Apple], who has nine such cases set for trial in the next year.
“If you look at the last 20 years, there has been a real increase in big cases and big verdicts, particularly in the last five years,” he said. “It’s an indication of the importance of intellectual property.”
A settlement in a case brought by Pfizer Inc. may have averted the year’s best chance for a billion-dollar verdict. Pfizer won a $2.15 billion settlement [with two generic drug companies, Teva Pharmaceutical and Sun Pharmaceutical] over its heartburn drug Protonix during trial before a jury could deliberate.…
The settlement dwarfed all the 2013 patent verdicts and was twice as high as the largest in 2012. Had the jury awarded the damages sought, it would have exceeded the largest-ever patent verdict, $1.67 billion against Abbott Laboratories, which was later reversed.
Corporations like Pfizer complain about lawsuits and push laws that limit the rights of their injured patients and consumers to sue. Yet when they lose money, they run straight to court. Makes perfect sense. After all, how can the rights of a brain-injured child compete with the rights of intellectual property? Priorities, people!
No one likes a hypocrite. Yet one would be hard pressed to find more hypocrites than in the “tort reform” movement.