Despicable, Inaccurate Attack Ads From US Chamber Violate Idaho Values

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The  “U.S. Chamber of Commerce” has been bombarding the Idaho airwaves and internet spaces with ads slamming liarsplaintiffs, lawyers and lawsuits.    These ads refer to  “junk lawsuits” and are in run in support of Idaho Representative Mike Simpson.

The ads are false and misleading and offensive to anyone who has had to seek justice through the courts in Idaho.This is the type of false garbage that makes people hate politics and politicians.

The ads show the Chamber cares nothing about Idahoans fundamental right to a jury trial, the US or Idaho Constitution or our 7th Amendment Rights.  The ads are, to use a technical term, “Horse pucky.”  As discussed below, actual Idaho research shows real Idaho juries and jurors are responsible and junk litigation does not get anywhere.

The US Chamber is Not Your Local Chamber of Commerce

The US Chamber is a national special interest group that is funded by large corporate interests. It repeatedly acts in ways that hurt citizens.   One of its big roles is simply to fund political campaigns.    While the Chamber claims it is a conservative pro-small business supporter, as a “non-profit” it secretly hides its major donors and how much it spends on influencing elections to help large corporations and insurance companies .More than 1/2 of its funding comes straight from just 16 giant corporations.  Many local chambers of commerce reject the US Chamber’s political activism for good reason.

They like to hide.  For example, the organization fought  laws that shield its political activities and the money it spends on ads such as those slamming ordinary civil plaintiffs hurt by other people.  These ads are not cheap. Cloaked in secrecy, the Chamber spends millions buying elections for politicians who are willing to return the favor.  The chamber has spent over 1 Billion (yes that Billion with a B) in lobbying the past view years.

The US Chamber’s Ad is Hypocritical When it Comes to Lawsuits

In Congressman Simpson’s case, it seems access to the courthouse for anyone but large corporations, or the Congressman, is their target.   Don’t forget that in the 1990’s, then Idaho Legislator Simpson sued the State to overturn voter passed term limits in a case called Simpson v. Cenarrusa, 944 P.2d 1372, 130 Idaho 609 (Idaho 1997).

Ordinary People Are Hurt by False “Junk Lawsuit” Rhetoric

  When I talk to clients about their case, I have to discuss the problems that the Chamber and its ilk create for ordinary people. They promoted caps on damages in Idaho. That bad idea hurts ordinary people, the most vulnerable and those who suffer the greatest injuries.   And there are special interest immunity laws that keep legitimate cases, where real people get hurt by unreasonable actions of others, out of court.

Most people have never had the misfortune of being injured or losing a loved one due to the carelessness of another. It is always a hard thing for me to have to explain to someone grieving the loss of a loved one that the responsible party might be able to spend more on a fancy new car than they would ever be legally obligated to pay for negligently taking a child’s life.  Large corporations and groups like the Chamber ensure that this absurdity is the law in Idaho (and elsewhere) thanks to their bought-and-paid for politicians.

The ugly truth is that taxpayers like you and I bear the burden and have to pay the cost of providing care for injured people and not the Chamber’s insurance company pals or the responsible party.

Idaho Doesn’t Have “Junk Lawsuits” or “Runaway Juries”

In 2002, a study was done in Idaho about Jury Awards.  As part of that study Judges were asked to comment on Idaho juries and how cases.  Comments like

“People who think there are runaway verdicts in Idaho are badly mistaken.” “Juries in Idaho tend to award very little.” “…usually common sense results and awards – usually predictably low.” “Juries always recognize weak cases and the verdicts reflect that.”

 Jury Awards in Idaho: A Survey Study of Punitive and Non-Economic Damage Awards in Idaho Courts.

Executive Summary: Led by John Fiedler, a former Reagan-Bush campaign staffer and market researcher, a research study of jury awards in Idaho Courts was performed.  Eighty two percent of Idaho district court judges responded to a direct survey that asked about the frequency and scope of punitive and non-economic damage awards in the Idaho court system.  The responding judges have a combined total of about 235 years of experience on the District Court bench.

The data show that Idaho judges see Idaho juries acting responsibly and rarely award large damages except when appropriate. On a statewide basis, there are over 500,000 cases started in Idaho courts each year.  About 6700 of those are civil cases in district courts.  Less than one tenth of 1 percent of those civil cases have punitive damages. This means Idaho courts average less than seven punitive damage awards a year, many of them quite small.  The big awards were cases like the Aryan Nations case and against insurance companies that swindled their customers.  No judge had heard of punitive damages ever being awarded against a medical provider.

Large non-economic damage awards in excess of Idaho’s current limits are even more rare and average less than two a year.  This is for all cases.  None of the non-economic damage awards above the cap were identified as medical negligence cases.  Less than five cases a year have non-economic damage awards in excess of the proposed $250,000 cap. The study further shows that the trial judges who watch litigation in Idaho on a day-to-day basis perceive Idaho juries as unwilling to grant large verdicts except in rare cases in which such verdicts are deserved.  In addition, the judges report that frivolous cases are dismissed easily in Idaho Courts.

Special thanks to Jarom Whitehead of Peterson & Whitehead in Twin Falls for the inspiration for, and some of the language in, this post.  Another trial lawyer protecting real Idahoans from real harm.

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