Posted Mar. 31:
A widely applauded provision in the new federal "terrorism
insurance" law is intended to facilitate lawsuits against nations and
private parties adjudged to have committed, or aided and abetted, terrorism.
To understand the danger here, it is useful to look at history. If
based on today's standards, compensatory and punitive damages against Germany
for the actions of its World War II war machine would have exceeded the
wealth and GNP of that country for eternity. Had the tort arrangements
apparently favored by many advocates of the new law been in effect then,
it would have resulted in a level of reparations ruinous enough to have
precluded the reconstruction of Germany and its return to the international
community. Yet would anyone seriously contend that the fear of paying eventual
punitive damages would have deterred Hitler from embarking on his reign
Decisions over postwar reparations are of great historical import. They
should not be a function of private litigation, but of diplomacy that considers
all factors at the time. Done wrong, as in Versailles in 1919, they
can condemn the world to war and suffering. Expanding our tort law
to this arena by empowering "angry victims and aggressive lawyers" may
be cathartic, but the cost may be greater than we know. Extending
our pathological tort system to the new area of international law is a
mistake of historical magnitude. -- Al Rodbell,
I read the Lynn Sweet piece in the Chicago Sun-Times (see Mar.
4) about Sen. Edwards's use of the cerebral palsy patient as a prop
in a Senate speech. According to the piece by reporter Sweet the
1992 obstetrical case was "botched". Your recent piece in the WSJ
(see Feb. 27) gives an excellent
review of how lawyers have won cerebral palsy cases against doctors using
assumptions that are not scientifically valid. Just wondering: has
anyone gone back to review the case Edwards won for $5 million to see if
it would hold up to what we now know about the causes of CP? --
S. W. Bondurant, M.D.
-- Good question. We hope some professional news organization
looks into it, and publicizes whatever it learns. -- ed.
Maybe there's hope yet. Today's (Feb. 26, not online) Courier
News of Bridgewater, N.J. reports on a case in which a judge actually
made a sane decision regarding a lawsuit. It seems a boy jumped over
a chain fence designed to keep cars from driving onto a school playground.
He chipped several teeth -- and his mother sued claiming the school was
negligent for allowing "a dangerous situation to exist".
Judge Rosemarie R. Williams, a Superior Court judge sitting in my town
of Somerville, noted that the chain was painted yellow and was connected
to two yellow posts. Also, children were easily able to walk around
it to get to the playground. She also said that it was difficult
for her to view an item that was put into place to protect students from
a far more obvious danger as creating a dangerous situation itself.
Finally, she ruled that climbing, walking, or jumping over the chain when
it could have been walked around was not an exercise of due care.
And then she threw out the case. Three cheers for Judge Williams! --
Bob Bullock, Somerville, N.J.
As a physician, as an old follower of Quackwatch,
and as a card carrying skeptic, I feel I should warn you that your periodic
email site updates have recently included advertisements promoting
the use of colloidal silver, a modern equivalent of snake oil. I
realize you can't investigate all such products and you are not endorsing
or backing this product, but you should know that belief in colloidal silver
as a miracle cure is on the same plane as the health scares over mercury
in dental fillings, autoimmune diseases from silicone, and brain cancer
from cell phones. In fact, in some instances the use of colloidal
silver can cause real disease. Readers may wish to consider Quackwatch's
to colloidal silver and Rosemary
Jacobs's story before experimenting with such treatments. --
Scott L. Replogle, M.D., Louisville, Colo.
-- We share reader Replogle's disquiet. The Topica service,
which distributes our newsletter, inserts ads of its own choosing and neither
gives us advance notice of their content nor allows us to veto future insertions.
We've put an advisory in the newsletter text warning readers that we in
no way endorse or necessarily approve of products or services promoted
in the ads. -- ed.
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