Tort “Reform” Movement’s Take on Racism
Just got back from a short vacation. I’m refreshed and ready to launch back into the world that is Tort Deform. To warmly greet me in the blogosphere is a revealing (and ill-timed) post by David Nieporent of Overlawyered.
His post titled “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can make me rich” ridicules an African-American couple who were refused service and subjected to racial slurs for deciding to sue the store from which they attempted to make their purchase. The post, and the tone that it takes, is ironic in that it follows the recent fallout from Don Imus’s own racially disparaging remarks.
However, it is honestly nothing new. The framing of “over-victimization” used by the tort “reform” movement to attempt to disparage the civil justice system is part and parcel of a general conservative messaging campaign that disparages the entire concept of victimization (replacing it with themes of personal responsibility) in many other areas such as civil rights.
I’ll follow up with a more detailed post after I get caught up after my break, but I just wanted to flag this issue buy way of a quote from Nieporent’s post.
They then allege that, while waiting for that helpful clerk to sell them a watch, they heard McCrary curse at them, using a racial slur, and then stalk off. The helpful clerk immediately apologized, as did a sales manager. But nonetheless, this incident was so traumatic for the couple -- including the husband, who was a police officer -- that they not only felt too distressed to finish buying the watch, but they felt the need to return the items they had already purchased (link)
I can’t think of a more condescending reaction (at least that can be publicly published on Overlawyered) to an incident of outright racial discrimination.
More from Nieporent:
Now, assuming the Greens are telling the truth -- there seems to be substantial evidence supporting their version of events -- McCrary deserves to be condemned wholeheartedly, and the Greens were entitled to an apology (which they got). But that, of course, wouldn't allow them to cash in on this incident. So, instead the couple waited two years, and then filed a lawsuit demanding $5.5 million, claiming that the store had illegally violated their rights to make contracts because they were black. (link)
There’s a lot more to say here, but the most interesting issue is the framing of this incident. Nieporente takes a case of outrageous racial discrimination and frames it into an incident where the victims, who simply wished to purchase goods in a place of public accommodation, have somehow become villains.
The ability to enter restaurants and stores was one of the very rights that so many suffered and died for during the civil rights movement. It’s not inconvenient, as Nieporente attempts to frame it, but instead invokes the fundamental denial of equal citizenship that has characterized the great majority of this country’s history.
That Nieporent sees this incident as something that was merely inconvenient that didn’t really disrupt the ability of this couple to live their lives as equal citizens (let alone pursue happiness), or that did not legitimately affect their ability to complete their purchase, discredits him and his tort “reform” views/arguments more than anything that I can ever say.
More to come when I’m settled back in.