From Publishers Weekly
Olson, a veteran legal commentator (The Litigation Explosion) and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, profiles a sector of the American legal system that he contends is out of control, inflicting serious damage on the nation's economy. The target of Olson's polemic is the use of class actions by a coterie of private lawyers who extract enormous verdicts and settlements from lawsuits against producers of tobacco, asbestos, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and the like. According to Olson, trial lawyers subvert democracy by using courtroom procedures to obtain reforms, such as regulating guns, which the American left has not been able to achieve in the federal or state legislatures. The lawyers distort public opinion, buy influence with judges through campaign contributions, introduce junk science into evidence and manipulate juries through unworthy courtroom theatrics. The class-action lawyers, Olson contends, garner stupendous fees for themselves, often produce minuscule payments to their clients and drive entire segments of business into bankruptcy. Olson contends that the class-action bar is bolstered behind the scenes by left-leaning organizations such as those affiliated with Ralph Nader. This is a partisan indictment, powerful enough in its recital of horror stories about misuse of the law, but so one-sided that it will appeal largely to those already convinced of the rectitude of big business.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Olson examines class action and mass tort law on behalf of consumers and how such laws have become a platform for a new legal elite. He reviews the early asbestos, silicone breast implant, and tobacco cases, showing how the law has expanded to accommodate this legal elite at the expense of the public. Good public relations and the capacity to confuse the public contribute more to jury verdicts than justice, according to Olson, who cites examples of the bashing of the auto industry by the popular television programs 60 Minutes, 20/20,
and ABC's Dateline.
Olson is especially concerned that as private attorneys accept contingency fees to litigate on behalf of states, they have become too cozy with states' attorney generals, particularly in tobacco lawsuits. This effective privatization of the public interest has created a group of lawyers who have become exceptionally wealthy and major donors to political officials. This book will appeal to readers interested in the intersection of the law, current events, and politics. Vernon FordCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved