Top 10 Significant Contributions From Trial Lawyers
HOW TRIAL LAWYERS MAKE SOCIETY BETTER AND HELP PROTECT PEOPLE
Lawyers get a bad rap. There are probably more jokes about unethical lawyers than there are about any other profession. The funniest part is that, unlike most other professions, lawyers are bound by a code of ethics. A violation of the rules of professional conduct can result in the attorney getting disbarred.
In a society based on rules and regulations, lawyers and, more specifically, trial lawyers play a critical role in keeping society functioning. Trial lawyers protect people, hold greedy corporations accountable, and shed light on grave injustices.
Here are 10 ways trial lawyers helped make the world a safer place:
1. TAKATA AIRBAG RECALL
Takata airbags containing a deadly design defect with the airbag inflator were installed in approximately 67 million vehicles. Studies show that airbags with this flaw were prone to exploding due to long-term exposure to high heat and humidity. Through litigation, it was revealed that the company knew about the issue for years before a recall issue.
Trial lawyers not only obtained hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of victims injured or killed by the airbags, but they also helped to initiate one of the largest auto parts recalls in American history. The recall has likely saved thousands of people from serious injury or death.
2. FEN-PHEN LAWSUIT
An estimated 6 million people took the American Home Products Corporation diet pill “Fen-Phen.” The drug was marked as a miracle pill for obesity. By September 1997, the drug was pulled from the market after studies showed a link between the use of the diet pill and heart valve damage.
Litigation against the makers of the drug eventually resulted in a $3.75 billion settlement, one of the largest of its kind. Thousands of people received compensation for their Fen-Phen- related injuries because of the work of trial lawyers.
3. FORD-FIRESTONE UNSAFE TIRES
Over 200 deaths have been linked to Firestone tires that were installed on Ford vehicles. Product liability lawsuits as early as the 1990s produced evidence showing that the tread would separate on factory-installed Firestone tires on Ford Explorers. The tire failure made the Explorer more likely to roll over, resulting in injury and death. The lawsuits not only helped to prompt awareness about the dangerous defect but also led to multiple congressional hearings and a lifesaving recall of the tires.
4. ENRON WORKERS/RETIREMENT MONEY SETTLEMENT
When the Enron Corporation declared bankruptcy in 2001, tens of thousands of employees were left in financial ruin, devastated by the sudden, unexpected collapse of the company. Little did they know that the company’s downfall, a company once hailed for its innovation, was of its own doing.
A class-action lawsuit helped to recover hundreds of millions for employees that lost their retirement plan overnight. The suit resulted in the “largest settlement in a 401(k) case involving company stock,” according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal.
5. CHEVROLET CORVAIR CAR
The Chevrolet Corvair was originally touted for its innovative, compact design. One of the most distinct features was that the luggage compartment was located in the front of the vehicle, not at the rear.
The rear-engine design is believed to have made the vehicle less stable, more susceptible to rollover or loss of control. The car stopped being produced after 1969 and was formally recalled due to the potential for a carbon monoxide leak from its heater.
6. 3-WHEEL ATV LAWSUIT
Trial lawyers helped to get dangerous and deadly three-wheel ATVs banned from the market. The unsteady vehicles (Honda three-wheel ATCs) were responsible for over 300,000 injuries and 1,000 deaths in the 1980s. Litigation proved that the vehicles contained a design defect and helped individuals and their families who were injured or killed by the vehicles recover millions.
7. POLYBUTYLENE PIPE LAWSUITS
A 1995 class-action lawsuit resulted in a $950 million settlement against Shell Oil Co. for faulty polybutylene plastic plumbing. The company, one of three, developed and produced pipes that were prone to leakage or would burst over time. Additional class action lawsuits have since been filed to help homeowners who have sustained substantial damage
8. DALKON SHIELD CONTRACEPTIVE
The Dalkon Shield was an intrauterine device (IUD). The contraceptive was hailed as a safe alternative to birth control pills in the early 1970s. Not long after emerging on the market, researchers began to see links between the device and severe infection, infertility, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Trial lawyers were able to prove that the device was unsafe and multi-million dollar verdicts on behalf of those injured by the device.
9. FORD PINTO GAS TANK LAWSUIT
The Center for Auto Safety noted that 1.5 million Ford Pintos were recalled due to a fuel tank design defect, which made them prone to catching fire if involved in a rear-end collision. At the time, a lawsuit against the company resulted in a verdict with the largest punitive damages ever awarded by a California jury.
10. POST 9/11 LITIGATION
The events of 9/11 forever shook our country. Countless lives were lost or affected by the devastating attacks. Post 9/11 litigation helped to secure compensation for those that lost loved ones, suffered injuries, or had property damage as a result of the terrorists.
Trial lawyers work tirelessly for those injured as a result of another person’s negligence. They are dedicated, compassionate individuals who focus on bringing justice and equity to people who may otherwise not be heard.
Certainly, not all trial lawyers are above the fray, but for the vast majority, arguing in court is merely scratching the surface of what they do and how they can help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Callahan is a Texas trial lawyer who specializes in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. He is board-certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Located in Katy, TX, Scott represents clients throughout Texas and nationwide. Learn more on Scott Callahan’s profile.