Trent Lott Perhaps The Biggest Hypocrite of Tort “Reform” … Ever (Vol 3)
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(link)
"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
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 email@example.com.
Senior Fellow in Civil Justice
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy