TorteDeForm

Cyrus Dugger

Trent Lott Perhaps The Biggest Hypocrite of Tort “Reform” … Ever (Vol 3)

We have started a series over here at Tort Deform on the hypocrites of tort “reform.”

These hypocrites are those who decry lawsuits and assist tort “reform” legislation which makes it more difficult to get access to the courthouse when a person is physically or financially harmed, but who go straight to court when they are personally injured. A lot of the best examples of these hypocrites have been collected by the Center for Justice and Democracy that we have relied upon for some great material from their reports.

However, their reports can’t be updated every day, and we would like to draw your attention to Trent Lott, the former Majority Leader of the Senate (who stepped down after a media storm resulting from his praise of the racist goals of the 1948 presidential campaign of Sen. Strom Thurmond).

Trent Lott, there’s a lot of negative things that I could say about him.

However, today I will just focus on his hypocrisy… on the issue of tort “reform.” Trent Lott used to be an avid tort “reform” supporter. Here are some choice quotes from him:

"The Democrats seem to think that the answer is a lawsuit. Sue everybody." - Sen. Trent Lott, 7/20/01

"I'm among many Mississippi citizens who believe tort reform is needed."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 5/8/02

"You know, obviously we should [enact tort reform]...Someday it will happen, and the sooner the better."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 1/24/01

" Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi today credited the agenda of tax cuts, deregulation and tort reform initiatives passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Bush with the overall upturn in the national economy."
- Sen. Trent Lott press release, 12/2/05

"If their answer to everything is more lawsuits, then yes, that's a problem, because I certainly don't support that."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 8/2/02

"It's sue, sue, sue... That's not the answer."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 8/4/01

(link)

According to a former aide, Lott’s voting record on tort “reform” legislation usually echoed his rhetoric.

However, when his own $400,000 house was destroyed in Katrina, and State Farm denied his claim, all of this rhetoric went out the window and he went straight to the courthouse.
Indeed, he went straight to the courthouse with one of the most successful trial lawyers in the country who won a huge settlement against big tobacco, and who is hated by large corporations everywhere: his brother-in law Richard Scruggs.

When asked about his personal lawsuit Lott said:

"I'm interested in getting results that will help a lot of people, and I'm one of them. ... This was an important part of my life savings, and I just don't think that the response was one that I could accept."
(link)

It is pretty mind-blowing that Lott can seriously take this stance given that he has at least publicly critiqued the ability to go to court for others. While some insider tort “reform” supporters have complained that his relationship with his brother-in-law made him a less aggressive supporter of tort “reform” in practice than his rhetoric indicated, (even tort “reformers” would have to agree that) his tort “reform” voting record and his public support for tort “reform” has very much helped the rollbacks of access to justice in the courts and oversight of the insurance industry which he now complains about.

Granted, Lott recently got legislation passed directing the Department of Homeland Security to investigate accusations of fraud by insurance companies, and he is trying to get legislation passed to require insurance companies to also write their policies in “plain English.”

As quoted by the New York Times,

He said home insurance policies contained “a bunch of subterfuges” difficult for laymen or lawyers to comprehend.

“Don’t tell me they don’t do it on purpose,” Mr. Lott said.
Although I think that there’s little else that Lott and I would agree about, I think we have found one point of view in common. (link to NY Times article)

Indeed, a federal judge recently found the language of the contract at issue in the first of these types of lawsuits to be “ambiguous” as written. (link)

While Lott’s recent efforts towards better regulating insurance companies should be commended, the fact that this action is taken only after he is personally affected speaks volumes as to the integrity the tort “reform” movement.

Lastly, just as an fyi, Walter Olson, one of the leading “tort reform” proponents currently working for a conservative think tank called the Manhattan Institute, was Lott’s former aide in 1988.

To view a copy of Lott's complaint for his lawsuit, click here.

State Farm also recently failed in an attempt to keep its employees from being questioned regarding the denial of Katrina homeowner insurance claims.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about or working on these types of civil justice issues, please feel free to contact me at cdugger@drummajorinstitute.org.

Cyrus Dugger
Senior Fellow in Civil Justice
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

Cyrus Dugger: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 12:09 PM, Oct 13, 2006 in Consumer Rights | Hurricane Katrina | Insurance Industry
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Comments

Why does Lott's illegitimate lawsuit speak to the integrity of the reform movement as opposed to the integrity of his brother-in-law, Richard Scruggs, and those who are seeking illegitimate litigation against insurance companies? Or the integrity of Lott's support of trial attorneys stealing billions from American taxpayers long before Katrina?

Posted by: Ted | October 14, 2006 10:42 AM

Cyrus: Personal attacks and name calling? Not persuasive. Left wingers get frustrated easily, due to the hostility of the facts. I note they are likely to relax intellectual discipline. You may have fun here. Just don't do it in a tribunal.

Rule 611(a): Control by court.

The court shall exercise reasonable control over the mode and order of interrogating witnesses and presenting evidence so as to (1) make the interrogation and presentation effective for the ascertainment of the truth, (2) avoid needless consumption of time, and (3) protect witnesses from harassment or undue embarrassment.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | October 15, 2006 8:09 AM

Hi Ted,

Thanks for your comments on Tort Deform.

As I argue above, the point that this series makes is that oftentimes the strong supporters of tort reform change their mind about the importance of allowing a remedy when the remedy concerns their own lives.

Hypocritically denying a right to others, and/or stating one thing about lawsuits and doing another in your own life speaks to a real fundamental insincerity and unfairness.

As I cited to the same article that you link to and actually address the section it seems you are pointing readers to, nothing in that article undercuts my point above.

As I say above after having read the exact article that you link to:

“While some insider tort “reform” supporters have complained that his relationship with his brother-in-law made him a less aggressive supporter of tort “reform” in practice than his rhetoric indicated, (even tort “reformers” would have to agree that) his tort “reform” voting record and his public support for tort “reform” has very much helped the rollbacks of access to justice in the courts and oversight of the insurance industry which he now complains about.”

Ted, do you have a problem with Lott’s actual voting record as to his support for tort “reform” (aka corporate immunity)? It seems your statement above is focused on one specific issue related to one congressional action in one tobacco lawsuit.

Both his above quoted statements as well as his overall voting record pretty conclusively make him an avid supporter of tort “reform.”

As a result, I really don’t understand what your above comment is based on.

Posted by: Cyrus Dugger | October 15, 2006 4:54 PM

Hi Supremacy Clause,
Thanks for your comments on Tort Deform.
Who are the “left wingers” you are addressing? What does that term mean to you? Although I don’t see it as a negative term at all, where is your support for the assert that so-called “left wingers get frustrated easily?” I can’t agree that opposition to tort “reform” or better put, opposition to corporate liability immunities and shields is really an incredibly radical stance.

When I used the word hypocrite above I did not use it as a pejorative comment as others have frequently done on this blog. I used the word because it defines Lott’s behavior.

Here are a couple of quick definitions of hypocrite, I think that Trent Lott’s behavior, in at very least this context, fits well within the bounds of all these definitions:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Hypocrite
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1)

a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, esp. one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.
n : a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he does not hold
Do you still have an objection to calling him a hypocrite?

Posted by: Cyrus Dugger | October 15, 2006 4:57 PM

What amazes me is that Senator Lott is misusing his office to conduct an illegitimate investigation to punish an industry he is having a personal financial dispute with (and, at the same time, financially benefit his brother-in-law), and you think the problem is "hypocrisy."

Posted by: Ted | October 15, 2006 7:38 PM

Cyrus: I think you are a good person who has been misled. You are too young to have knowledge of the 20th Century. During that century, a flat earth doctrine was imposed on much of the world. It was unnatural, and 100 million people were slaughtered to try to persuade people of its validity. It failed. This is the left wing.

Today, very few places still subscribe to this horrendous idea. There is Cuba, North Korea, and the American academy. You have just emerged from a vicious indoctrination process. The law school has trained you to ignore reality, despite your IQ of 1000. They have made you believe in supernatural doctrines, mind reading, future forecasting, the standards of conduct of a fictional character, that 12 people off the street can detect the truth by their gut feelings, and finally, this most lawless of all idea, "reasonable", which means in accordance with the New Testament. This is in furtherance of its single aim and success, rent seeking. Unlike the Communists, the lawyer seeks to redistribute the wealth and power only to the lawyer.

This self-evident information cannot be faced by any lawyer, not even Ted, who has never allowed them to be posted on his censored, biased site, despite my resubmitting them over and over. He is a victim of these flat earth doctrines, as all lawyers are.

As you know, we are a secular nation with an Establishment Clause. These core doctrines of the law are lawless, being supernatural, and originating from St. Thomas Aquinas, a monk.

I believe it is too late for you. I hope I am wrong. To your credit, you have had the courage to permit these criticisms on your site. This is more than can be said for the topmost of legal academia. The person who is brighter than even you, authored a 1000 page case book on the First Amendment knew nothing of the church origins of these doctrines. Never read St. Thomas. Then he expelled me from his site when these were pointed out.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | October 15, 2006 10:24 PM

Hi Ted,

Thanks for your comments on Tort Deform.

I am amazed that Senator Lott is doing what he is doing (for a variety of reasons).

What amaes me most is that he is doing what he has criticized others for doing: going to court when they have been severely wronged and there is no other recourse available to them.

Truly amazing, and for the reasons I stated above, truly hypocritical.

Posted by: cyrus dugger | October 16, 2006 12:11 AM

Hi Supremacy Clause,

Thanks for your comments on Tort Deform.

I have to say that I don't really understand what your age or my age have to do with the veracity of our points of point of view.

Your points seem a bit condescending, but can you explain your above point further.

Cyrus

Posted by: Cyrus Dugger | October 16, 2006 12:21 AM

Cyrus: Your youth deprives you of a grasp of the evil of Communism at the concrete, gut level. As a left winger, you have bought the lies of the flat earth American academy. They have excluded nearly all opposing opinion by their harassment, shunning and exclusion of all academic dissent. The reason they must is that Communism is a failure with no exceptions. To allow the news of failure would end their propaganda.

I condescend to all lawyers. Even with twice my IQ, they are mentally crippled cult indoctrination victims. My haircutter may have an IQ of 90, and John Roberts an IQ of 300. However, she does not employ supernatural doctrines at her job. She is productive. He is nuts, destructive, and been made into a blithering idiot, applying ridiculous supernatural concepts to death penalty cases and cases where $bil will change hands. You can get the idea of how ridiculous American law is by reading people who lived 800 years ago on some other subject, such as astronomy or biology. What makes you think the same people have valid conceptions of the law? Your Hornbook's content has the same validity as an astronomy book's from 1200 AD. Not only that, but Roberts has a ridiculous false modesty and a self-seriousness that would be hilarious were it not for his power to carry out his ghoulish human experiments on the entire American public, in the form of his ridiculous pro-lawyer rent seeking decisions, all at the point of a gun. Nuts but very dangerous.

You are as unable to grasp the wrongfulness of Robert's silly thinking as a fish is unable to grasp the existence of the air above the water that is his world. I am looking down on you from the world of the ground and air down into your pond. If there is a difference, I cannot tell the conservative fish from the liberal ones. You all look alike to me, flapping around hunting the rent full time.

It is a problem for the profession, its Medieval, Scholasticist ridiculousness. It is more atavistic than the Catholic Church, which moved on from these beliefs 100's of years ago. Yours is a technical profession, provide an essential utility product, the rule of law. You are not priests. You should be embarassed by the supernatural stuff.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | October 16, 2006 7:09 PM

Hey Ted, quick question for you: Have you ever filed a lawsuit, either for yourself or for a client? Or have you always represented defendants?

I'm just curious as I'd like to know what kind of lawsuits you don't think are illegitimate, or frivolous, or meritless, etc...

Posted by: Justinian Lane | October 19, 2006 2:33 PM