The American Association for Justice recently published an article exposing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of protecting the multinational corporations that fund them from getting sued, while at the same time helping these same corporations sue others. Through two arms of the Chamber, the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) and the National Chamber Litigation Center (NCLC), the Chamber upholds these companies' Constitutional rights to justice when wronged, but refuse these same rights to everyday Americans. Although the actions of the Chamber are extremely hypocritical, this raises a bigger issue of justice.
The ILR has the sole mission of restricting the ability of individuals harmed by careless corporations to access the civil justice system. Multinational corporations that finance the ILR assigned them this mission, claiming that businesses are hindered by too many lawsuits. Similarly Chamber president and CEO Tom Donohue boasted that "litigation is one of our most powerful tools for making sure that federal agencies follow the law and are held accountable." The question remains of who will hold these corporations accountable.
With the backing of the ILR and the NCLC, multinational corporations prevent true justice from being attained for thousands of individuals.
Kenneth Masterson, former executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of FedEx revealed that "our courts are clogged with frivolous lawsuits... [leaving] the judicial system badly overloaded, often forcing those who have suffered legitimate injury to wait years to get their day in court." He was describing a tactic used by FedEx to limit their employees from suing them. FedEx wants to limit the ability of individuals to join together to file class action lawsuits because it has been the targeted so many times. In the past FedEx has been targeted for its unfair treatment of minorities, preventing them from being promoted and treating them unfairly in evaluations. Instead of dealing with cases such as these, FedEx clogs up the courts with cases suing individuals such as Jose Avila. When Avila, a loyal FedEx customer, moved into his new apartment he could not afford furniture so he made them out of used FedEx boxes. FedEx sued him for copyright infringement.
Not only is this "one rule for us, another for them" mantra hypocritical and constitutionally wrong, it prevents multinational corporations from being held accountable for faulty products.
Honeywell International, a board member since 2007, qualifies perfectly for a Chamber-endorsed piece of legislation that prevents companies who make dangerous products from being sued. If this piece of legislation passes then Honeywell will be completely off the hook for producing one of the most defective products of all time: the Zylon bulletproof vest. Manufacturers of this vest have known since 1998 that the material used for the vest was faulty, and had a possibility of bullets getting through. With this knowledge manufacturers continued to produce these vests until September 2003. During this time countless numbers of vests were sold to law enforcement agencies and were worn by the police, as well as George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush. Similarly the Chamber protects companies such as GM, also a board member since 2007, from being held accountable for producing dangerous cars. GM's Chevy Malibu was extremely dangerous; its "side saddle" fuel tank was prone to explode upon collision. GM calculated that if 500 people died in a fuel-tank related accident the payout would be about $2.40 per car while the cost to fix the problem would be $8.40 per car. Instead of being socially responsible, GM chose the cheaper option.
Weighing the scales of justice to their favor, multinational corporations not only obstruct justice for individuals but continue to produce faulty products without fear, knowing that they will not be held accountable for their actions. As long as the Chamber continues to cater to corporations, such companies will continue to simply seek products without a care in the world for individuals that are their consumers.