The American Association for Justice (AAJ) published an article in October of 2011 entitled Do As I Say, Not As I Sue. This white paper exposes the double standards of major American corporations when it comes to litigation. The Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) is an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that has but one sole purpose- to limit the ability of individuals to sue corporations that caused harm to them out of negligence. The multinational corporations that finance ILR and believe that businesses are hindered by too many lawsuits, ironically, readily access the civil justice system and sue others as they see fit.
The #1 ILR hypocrite is: Honeywell International (Board member since 2007).
It is possible that Honeywell International decided to join the ILR board in 2007 after being exposed in a 2003 scandal for selling thousands of one of the dangerously defective products of all time: the Zylon Bulletproof Vest. Manufacturers of the product have known since at least 1998 that the vest was defective when they realized that the material quickly degraded in heat and humidity, allowing for a bullet to pass through. Instead of correcting the problem and notifying and informing the users of these vests that they were, in fact, not really bulletproof, corporations like Honeywell International continued to have the vests manufactured and sold.
It was in 2003 when Tony Zeppetella, a police officer in Oceanside, California , was shot and killed in the line of duty after his bulletproof vest proved to be anything but. His wife, Jamie, sued the company who sold her husband the vest, which sparked a class action lawsuit brought by police departments. Production of the vests stopped and the company was forced to recall over 100,000 defective vests. In fact thousands of law enforcement and military personnel had been put in danger put in danger, as had former President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush, who also wore the vests prior to the recall.
Ten companies involved in the manufacturing and selling of this product were sued by the U.S. Department of Justice and settled the lawsuit. Honeywell International, however, took a seat on the ILR’s board and filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Justice instead, alleging misconduct in the handling of the case.
Lawsuits brought by trial lawyers is what forced the vests off the market, potentially saving thousands of lives.
(A word of advice to any corporation on the ILR board: if you sue and and don’t think you should be sued after endangering the lives of thousands of American police officers, expect to win the top spot on AAJ’s hypocrite list!)
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the ILR have been trying for years to get countless pieces of legislation passed so that corporations would be granted immunity when they manufacture and sell defective products, and their efforts remain strong today. As stated in the AAJ white paper;
The corporations of ILR believe in one rule for them, and another rule for the rest of us. They work to close the courthouse door to individuals, but use those same courts liberally for their own agenda. At the heart of this double standard is their corporate creed that profits before people.
These corporations need to realize that the right to seek justice through the litigation and jury trial process belongs not just to big corporations, but to all Americans.