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Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005 08:44 am

common sense 1-6-05

art1697

Look for a big push by the Bush administration this year to restrict your right to sue corporations that harm or cheat you.

President George W. Bush claims that you unruly citizens are treating big corporations unfairly, constantly filing "frivolous lawsuits" against them. So to protect the poor corporations, Bush says, he must limit your access to America's courts.

But here's a dirty little secret that Bush doesn't mention: By far the biggest filers of frivolous lawsuits are not we the people -- but corporations! The consumer group Public Citizen has done a survey of cases in Arkansas, Mississippi, Chicago, and Philadelphia -- four places alleged to be hotbeds of so-called lawsuit abuse.

The survey reveals that, contrary to the propaganda, American businesses file about four times as many lawsuits as do individuals -- even though there are 40 times more individuals in America than businesses. Also, the survey finds that corporations and their legal beagles file frivolous lawsuits 69 percent more often than individuals do.

Big companies keep a bevy of attorneys on staff or on retainer, and they routinely unleash them on their customers, competitors, suppliers, workers, and anyone else standing between them and another dollar bill. Regular folks, however, count on a system of trial lawyers to help us when we've been wronged. These lawyers only get paid if we win. This democratic, entrepreneurial system gives poor and middle-class families access to the judicial system -- not just the rich.

It's this access that Bush and company want to take away. Yet, the corporations pushing Bush's hokey "reform" -- the very corporations that are so quick to run to the courthouse with frivolous suits -- are demanding that they be exempted from the proposed law.

To get Public Citizen's report, call 202-454-5104.

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