Monday, February 20, 2006

Another Burden Lifted 

Courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.: You are certainly aware that the Supreme Court, in the 1886 case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, ruled that private corporations are persons, entitled to the same rights and privileges afforded to any living human being under the Constitution. Nowadays, thanks to our legislators in their wisdom, corporations are coming to enjoy a few additional rights that the rest of us (with certain obvious exceptions: G.W. Bush, D. Cheney, J. Bond) do not possess -- specifically, the right to maim and kill with complete impunity:
The roof of the Ford F-250 crumpled, and Parker didn't stand a chance. His neck broke and, at 37, he was paralyzed from the chest down. He sued, and Ford Motor Co. settled for an undisclosed amount . . . .

Parker's case and hundreds like it are behind a beefed-up roof safety standard proposed in August by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But safety regulators tucked into the proposed rule something vehicle makers have long desired: protection from future roof-crush lawsuits like the one Parker filed.

The surprise move seeking legal protection for automakers is one in a series of recent steps by federal agencies to shield leading industries from state regulation and civil lawsuits on the grounds that they conflict with federal authority.

Some of these efforts are already facing court challenges. However, through arcane regulatory actions and legal opinions, the Bush administration is providing industries with an unprecedented degree of protection at the expense of an individual's right to sue and a state's right to regulate.

  • The highway safety agency, a branch of the Department of Transportation, is backing auto industry efforts to stop California and other states from regulating tailpipe emissions they link to global warming. The agency said last summer that any such rule would be a backdoor attempt by states to encroach on federal authority to set mileage standards, and should be preempted.

  • The Justice Department helped industry groups overturn a pollution-control rule in Southern California that would have required cleaner-running buses, garbage trucks and other fleet vehicles.

  • The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has repeatedly sided with national banks to fend off enforcement of consumer protection laws passed by California, New York and other states. The agency argued that it had sole authority to regulate national banks, preempting state restrictions.

  • The Food and Drug Administration issued a legal opinion last month asserting that FDA-approved labels should give pharmaceutical firms broad immunity from most types of lawsuits. The agency previously had filed briefs seeking dismissal of various cases against drug companies and medical-device manufacturers . . . .
Preemption initiatives by regulatory agencies have drawn less public attention than controversial legislative moves supported by the White House. With administration support, Congress has restricted class-action suits and banned certain claims against gun makers and vaccine producers.

By embedding similar protections for businesses in regulatory changes, the administration has advanced Bush's repeated pledge to rein in what he calls junk lawsuits.
And won't that be a SLAPP in the face to those god damned-trial lawyers who have made life so unbearable for so many millions of Americans? Are you listening, John Edwards? The next time your five-year-old client has her intestines sucked out by a defective pool drain, you can tell her to kiss the manufacturer's (figurative) ass -- which is sure to be, unlike hers, in perfect working order.

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