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Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 10:16 am

common sense 1-27-05

art1747

At President George W. Bush’s recent “National Economic Conference,” an entire session was devoted to bashing trial lawyers — and what a rollicking good time it was!

A panel of corporate interests wowed the handpicked audience of Bush partisans with jabs at the lawyers who try to hold wrongdoing corporations accountable. Bush nodded and chuckled as panelists cried about people who sue these business empires.

For example, Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli was there, wailing that his $64 billion-a-year retailing Goliath is a target for pesky consumers and their lawyers. “You’ve got deep pockets colliding with shallow principles,” Bob snorted, drawing guffaws from an appreciative president who is urging Congress to limit the rights of consumers to sue companies such as Home Depot.

Missing from Bush’s bashfest was Mary Penturff. Even if she’d been invited, she couldn’t have come — she was killed when her head was crushed by a 75-pound box that fell from one of Home Depot’s “high-stack” shelves. Janessa Horner couldn’t be there, either. The body of this 3-year-old was shattered by wood fragments when more than a ton of kitchen countertops fell 10 feet from a Home Depot forklift, splitting a main blood vessel in Janessa’s brain. She died four hours later.

Nardelli tries to keep secret the number of people killed or maimed by Home Depot — which has been labeled “the most dangerous store in America” — but it’s known that in one year alone the company was getting 185 injury claims per week. Why doesn’t Bob do something about it? Because it’s more profitable for him to settle with the families than to change the dangerous way in which his stores are operated.

And it’s even more profitable for him to back his buddy Bush, who’ll then push a law to keep families such as Mary Penturff’s and Janessa Horner’s from suing.

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