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Published: Wednesday, 2/5/2003

Don't blame tort lawyers for every ill

On Jan. 23 the Blade criticized bills that had been submitted by attorneys working on the Owens-Corning bankruptcy. The title of this editorial was “Feast for the tort lawyers.” It would appear that in their zeal to attack and condemn all things “tort,” the editors have forgotten (or never knew) what a “tort” is and who tort lawyers are.

A “tort” is a civil wrong that causes harm. A common example is running a red light and striking another vehicle.

Declaring bankruptcy is not a “tort.” Bankruptcy is a legal process Congress enacted to assist in unraveling debts and assets when financial fortunes take an unfortunate turn.

The fact that lawyers working on the OC bankruptcy are submitting hourly billing sets them apart from tort lawyers. A tort lawyer almost always works on a contingent basis. The contingency is a recovery in favor of the client resulting from the tort lawyer's efforts.

Lawyers who bill hourly are more apt to be corporate lawyers who work for a salary and know they will be paid.

Although it is currently popular to blame many of society's ills on tort lawyers, as one of them I know better. If it were not for tort lawyers willing to invest time and money into the causes of clients, large corporations would still be selling exploding Pintos and cigarette manufacturers would still be denying that tobacco is harmful.

I'm not defending the bills submitted by the OC bankruptcy lawyers. Those lawyers will have to account for their own billing practices. My point is that as “one of America's great newspapers,” I think The Blade should be able to keep its ire focused and not throw spears at tort lawyers every time it questions the action of any lawyer.

JOHN B. FISHER

Sylvania

Congratulations to The Blade, because your story provided a very accurate glimpse of what “drug reps” do and the behavior within some doctor's offices. I used to work for a doctor and saw many of these incidents firsthand. My employer actually turned away free lunches and other items because he felt they were not necessary. But there were drawers overflowing with pens, paper, and other supplies. I've even used some of them, including highlighters shaped like bottles of nasal spray.

While I am not sure that this practice influences every single doctor in America, there is no doubt in my mind that it drives up the cost of medication. I am fortunate to have good insurance coverage, but there are many who are not as fortunate and cringe every time they or their children are ill. In my mind, there should definitely be stricter regulations imposed.

LAURA NEIDERT

Bowling Green

Does anybody remember a few years back when then Mayor Carty Finkbeiner told everyone he had a letter from President Clinton supporting the building of the new Jeep plant? We asked to see the letter and he told us, “No, just trust me, it's in there.” The Blade pushed the issue and when he was forced to show the letter, it wasn't really what the letter said at all.

That's the feeling I now get from President George Bush. He says he has proof that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. When we say show us the proof, he says “No, just trust me, we have it.”

As we inch closer and closer to war with Iraq, I hope more people say to the President “Show us the proof. If you won't show us, then show the U.N. weapons inspectors so they know where to look. If you won't show them, at least show the leaders of other countries so they'll support you.”

I, like many Americans, want to support our President and no, I don't want to wait until a city is blown up before acting, but I would like to know that there is some evidence that Iraq does indeed have weapons of mass destruction and the capabilities of launching them. We know North Korea is developing nuclear weapons, but Mr. Bush doesn't seem as concerned about that as he is about ousting Saddam Hussein. Could the difference be the oil? I'd hate to think we're sending our young men and women to fight a war because we're worried about the continued flow of oil from the Middle East, but that's exactly what it's starting to look like. Please, Mr. President, show us the proof!

MIKE McCARTY

Applegate Drive

An easy way to avoid thinking critically is to take the sort of morally ambiguous stance The Blade took in its editorial marking the 30th anniversary of abortion rights. The Blade applauds a position that can be “pro-choice, pro-life, [and] pro-family.” Such paradoxical ambiguity is precisely the kind of moral non-thinking seen as deep and introspective in our post-modern, nihilistic culture. What if one were to apply the same reasoning to rape? “I am personally opposed to rape, but I support a person's right to choose it.”

Simply speaking, "pro-choice" is pure rhetoric that sounds great in the abstract, but only has meaning with reference to the object of that choice. To wit: “You are pro-choice ... to choose what? To steal? To murder? To be a greedy CEO? To rape?” My guess is that in these choices, those oh-so-subtle-thinking pro-choicers would be unambiguously “anti-choice.”

Well, it just so happens that pro-lifers have made a conclusion apparent to most people, to science, to logic, and to every religious tradition, that a pregnant woman has a human life inside of her. They have taken the “simplistic” position, therefore, that this life enjoys the same rights under the Constitution that all Americans enjoy.

This may help explain for The Blade the supposed inconsistency in the Republicans' philosophy against government intrusion. The Republican Party, to my knowledge, has never taken the anarchical stance that the government has no responsibility ever to interfere in people's lives if, say, one is going to rape, steal, murder, or chop up the unborn and suck it into a vacuum.

Whence, then, this ambiguity regarding abortion? Could it be because clear thinking about the morality of abortion might force one to face his or her moral numbness regarding the activity that leads to unwanted pregnancy in the first place?

REV. PETER BURFEIND

Westbrook Drive

The Union of Concerned Scientists supplied you with incorrect information for your Jan. 9 editorial, “One more Davis-Besse villain.” Contrary to the UCS claim that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is conducting “25 percent fewer inspections than in 1997,” the commission's baseline level of inspection that every nuclear power plant receives averaged 2,500 hours annually last year - a reduction of only 50 hours (or 2 percent) from the 1997 inspection level.

Offsetting this minor change in the number of inspection hours is the fact that the NRC since 1997 has put into place a new regulatory oversight process whose purpose is to focus the industry's and agency's time and resources on those issues most important to plant safety.

The change in inspection hours also is offset because the industry now provides safety performance data in 18 areas. Under the old process, inspection hours were consumed to collect the data rather than to conduct actual inspections.

UCS is on record supporting this new process, which is a step to ensure even higher safety standards. Details on the oversight process are available on the NRC's Web site at www.nrc.gov.

STEPHEN D. FLOYD

Senior Director

Nuclear Energy Institute

Washington, D.C.

Can your pre-eminent news-gathering organization please give me the answer to two straightforward questions:

1. How is O. J. Simpson coming in his search for the murderer of his wife, Nicole?

2. How is George W. Bush coming in his search for Osama bin Laden?

REV. ROBERT J. VERSTEEG

Bowling Green



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