Most consumers don't realize the important role that the civil justice system has played in making us safer. We rely on manufacturers to make safe products, employers to maintain safe workplaces and property owners to keep their properties safe. We also assume that governmental agencies alone are able to keep the public safe. In reality, sometimes hazardous products and unsafe properties cannot be remedied by regulation, and are instead are only fixed after someone injured by the hazard brings a lawsuit against the negligent party. There are countless examples of lawsuits that have brought about changes that make the public safer.
- At least 271 people were killed and many more injured as a result of defective Firestone tires. Documents uncovered in the lawsuits involving the Firestone tires revealed that Ford and Firestone had known about the dangers of the defective tires for years, but despite regulation by NHTSA, had done nothing to fix the problem. It was only after they were sued and forced as part of a settlement to release documents revealing the known hazard to the public that the manufacturer fixed the extremely dangerous design.
- A lawsuit brought by the family of a child killed by an unsafe magnet contained in a children's toy revealed that at least 34 children had been injured by the same magnet coming loose. As a result of the lawsuit, the manufacturer stopped selling the hazardous toy and the CPSC implemented new safety standards for toys with small magnets.
- A BP Refinery Explosion killed 15 workers and injured 170 more. Most of the employee's claims were settled; but the daughter of two workers who were killed in the explosion filed suit against BP. As part of the settlement of that lawsuit, BP agreed to release certain documents revealing that the cause of the fire was BP's negligence, in the hope that the documents would be used to prevent other refinery fires.
These are just a few examples of lawsuits that have resulted in increased safety for all. Lawsuits are often not only about the parties directly involved but are also about the safety of the public as a whole. While governmental agencies are certainly important in keeping us all safe, the civil justice system is also crucial in protecting safety.
***Source is the American Association for Justice.