News from ATLA

Reproduced here are some excerpts of recent mail and web page communications from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

1999 Membership Letter:

"ATLA members are the 56,000 men and women who are changing the face of trial law in America. As a member of ATLA, you will have regular opportunities to meet and network with these respected and influential leaders no mater whether your field is motor vehicle collision, family law, commercial litigation, products liability, medical negligence, criminal law—or another legal discipline.

Since our founding in 1946, ATLA has led the fight for civil justice and for the rights of injured persons. For over 50 years, ATLA has been a powerful voice for positive change. And that mission has never been more important than it is today. Why?

Because America's 200-year-old system of civil justice is today in grave peril due expressly to the well-financed campaigns of the tort "reformers."

A capsule summary of even only a few of the issues that ATLA faced and won during the recently adjourned One Hundred and Fifth Congress provides a glimpse of what's at stake. Here's a sample of what ATLA, working with trial lawyers in all parts of the country, accomplished over the past twenty-two months:

  • Defeated the so-called product liability "reform" bill on the Senate Floor. This was a bill that would have preempted state law and seriously limited the liability of manufacturers and sellers of defective products.

  • Stopped the advance of the "auto choice" bill, a national automobile no-fault proposal that would have federalized both insurance law and tort law and made it virtually impossible to bring a civil action for non-economic loss against a negligent or reckless driver.

  • Successfully prevented final passage of Commerce Committee-approved provisions in the Amtrak bill that would have capped non-economic and punitive damages in individual cases arising from passenger rail accidents.

  • Stopped a bill in both the House and Senate that would have made virtually all class actions removable to federal court.

  • Worked to successfully eliminate drastic medical malpractice tort "reform" from the fiscal 1998 Budget Reconciliation bill and the fiscal 1998 District of Columbia Appropriations bill. The House-passed version of both of these bills had included, among other limits, a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in health care liability actions—even including product liability actions against the manufacturers of drugs and medical devices.

  • Twice defeated attempts to break a filibuster against the "Volunteer Protection Act" in the Senate; successfully preventing passage of that bill until all provisions in it granting liability relief to charitable and non-profit organizations were deleted.

Again, that's only a sample of ATLA's efforts on Capitol Hill during 1997 and 1998. And guess what? Many of these issues will be back again in 1999. Certainly, the automobile no-fault bill and the class action bill will be high on the agenda, as will matters not even mentioned above—limits on plaintiff attorneys' fees, and a proposal to establish a federal administrative scheme for asbestos cases.

Who will these and similar tort "reform" issues affect when Congress addresses get enacted in even one area, no area of the law will be safe.

For over 50 years, ATLA has fought tirelessly and successfully to protect all areas of tort law and to safeguard the rights of American citizens."

"Keep our Families Safe" Project:

"Thank you for visiting ATLA's "Keep Our Families Safe" site and taking the time to understand what's at stake when individuals and corporations disregard the health and safety of our families.

Now you can help us keep up the good fight.

The key to ensuring that policymakers and politicians keep our families' safety foremost in mind is: Your stories. Nothing shows the benefits of American civil justice better. By sharing your stories and cases with us, we can continue safeguarding the laws and policies that protect our families.

We are looking for any story relating to child or family safety. Do you know of a toy on the market that you feel is dangerous? What practices or products have been changed because of your or someone else's actions? If it pertains to families or children, we want to know!

Please take a few moments and let us know your story. America's families will be glad you did. email:"

Big Apple Pothole & Sidewalk Protection Committee (from the New York State Trial Lawyers' site):

"Since 1982, Big Apple Pothole & Sidewalk Protection Committee has provided New York City with the legally required written notice of sidewalk, curb and crosswalk defects in the five boroughs of New York. Thorough and professional searches save attorneys countless hours in preparing their clients' cases. Every year, Big Apple provides hundreds of customers with completed searches, enabling attorneys to go forward with their cases.

Attorneys using Big Apple's services are provided (usually within 48 hours) with accurate information, two clear and legible maps and our assistance down the road should you need it. Big Apple is able to support its findings by testifying in court."


2001 The Federalist Society