Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Nader’

Ralph de Toledano, Nader victim

A prominent and much-admired figure in conservative journalism for decades, Ralph de Toledano died last month at the age of 90. (Dave Zincavage, Feb. 6). The Washington Post in its obituary recounts a sequence of events that did much to darken de Toledano’s later years:

In 1975, consumer activist Ralph Nader filed a lawsuit against De Toledano in connection with a De Toledano suggestion — denied by Nader — that Nader had “falsified and distorted” evidence about the Corvair automobile. The case lingered in court for years and cost De Toledano his life savings. Paul Toledano [son of the author] said it was settled out of court.

(Joe Holley, “Ralph de Toledano, 90; author and ‘nonconformist conservative'”, Washington Post/L.A. Times, Feb. 10).

De Toledano in fact had published an entire critical biography of Nader, entitled Hit and Run: The Rise — and Fall? — of Ralph Nader, used copies of which remain available online — even Nader himself can’t prevent that. The entire episode — in which Mr. Litigation, then at the height of his public fame and influence, inflicted vindictive and personal financial ruin on a well-known journalist who’d had the temerity to criticize him — is one that you’d think would have provoked expressions of concern and solidarity from leading writers and civil libertarians of the day, and yet it didn’t (scroll to #8). The episode tends to get no mention these days in accounts of Nader’s life (which, whatever their varying opinions of his actions as a spoiler presidential candidate, tend toward cloying hagiography of his earlier career). And one consequence of its lingering chilling effect (who wants to volunteer to be the next de Toledano?) may be that no one will be willing to write another genuinely unsparing biography of Nader, at least for publication during the subject’s lifetime.

For a sampling of our posts about Nader, see Jun. 13, 2000; Feb. 22, 2004; and this set of 2000-2003 links.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t files: toy safety

Maryland PIRG complains about the toy industry:

Some toy manufacturers are over-labeling toys by placing choke hazard warnings on items that do not contain small parts. This could dilute the meaning of the warning labels, making them less useful to parents.

One looks forward to the day where a Ralph Nader-founded organization intervenes as amicus in a failure-to-warn lawsuit to make the argument that liability should not be found because holding a manufacturer liable will create incentives to over-label and dilute the meaning of warnings.

Ralph Nader and the Philadelphia Eagles

Ralph Nader is arguing that the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to suspend star wide receiver Terrell Owens (for, inter alia, publicly criticizing the team and quarterback, shouting at coaches, a physical altercation with a teammate, and then failing to apologize) is consumer fraud because season-ticket holders had an expectation that Owens would play for the team, which barely lost the Super Bowl last year, and was an early favorite this year. (But what about all those New York Times subscribers who expected to read Judy Miller?) The suggestion rises to self-parody, though it exhibits the absurdity of modern consumer fraud law in that it isn’t crazier than suits that actually succeed. But I’m somewhat sanguine about Nader’s latest foray; if he’s tilting at the windmill of trying to make football coaching decisions litigable (Can a fan sue the Washington special teams coach for costing the team the game against Tampa Bay because it reduced the chance the team would go to the Super Bowl and the resale value of his season tickets?), it means he’s not spending time trying to wreck more important industries.

(Yes, I know that one shouldn’t blame the Washington special teams coach for losing the game. But it would be actionable under the Nader regime if a lawyer can find a fan who purchased tickets after hearing coaches say they were trying to avoid senseless penalties this season.)

“Nader’s House of Horrors”

“Ralph Nader says an architectural firm is now ‘putting final touches on the plans'” for his long-envisioned Museum of American Tort Law in his hometown of Winsted, Ct. “So far, says Nader, he’s raised half of the $4 million needed to open the museum — adding that he expects the rest to come from the trial-lawyer industry.” A New York Post editorial (Jun. 4) says all that needs to be said about the matter. See also John Leo’s 1998 column on the museum proposal, and our posts for Sept. 27, 1999 and May 16, 2000. P.S. Readers Troy Hinrichs and Walter E. Wallis write in to foretell the headaches the museum’s designers and groundskeepers will face as they try to prepare for opening day; the impending arrival of the world’s most litigious clientele will test to the limit their ability to anticipate slip-fall hazards, handicap compliance problems, potential injuries to burglars trying to sneak into the building after hours, and so forth.

The campaign: new at Point of Law

Over at our sister website Point of Law, Jim Copland memorializes one of the more entertaining moments of this election season: arch-litigation advocate Ralph Nader’s denunciation of Sen. John Edwards as a “sniveling coward” for not more forcefully countering Vice President Dick Cheney’s support for malpractice reform at their debate. Jim also comments on trial lawyers’ role in the recent Sinclair Broadcasting brouhaha. Finally, there’s a link to a provocative George Will column on the presidential race from earlier this month.

“Make you Ralph”

“The qualities that liberals have observed in him of late — the monomania, the vindictiveness, the rage against pragmatic liberalism — have been present all along. Indeed, an un-blinkered look at Nader’s public life shows that his presidential campaigns represent not a betrayal of his earlier career but its apotheosis.” (Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, Mar. 8). And Peter Brimelow, who with Leslie Spencer wrote a noteworthy piece of investigative journalism on Nader for Forbes more than a decade ago (“Ralph Nader Inc.”, Forbes, Sept. 17, 1990) has now reprinted that article at his site. For more on Nader, see Feb. 22; Jun. 13, 2000; etc.

CAFA compromise contemplated

Reports from Capitol Hill indicate that Congress may be ready to pass a version of the filibustered Class Action Fairness Act (Oct. 21, Sept. 28, etc.) early next year after alterations to bring aboard three Democratic Senators who had supported the filibuster, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Chuck Schumer of New York. We haven’t had a chance to check the details of how good the resulting bill is, but one circumstance speaks strongly in its favor: Ralph Nader is really upset. (Charles Hurt, “Revised lawsuit-reform bill wins Democratic converts”, Washington Times, Nov. 27; Joseph Straw, “Nader slams Dodd?s class action reform act”, New Haven Register, Dec. 3; Bruce Alpert, “House, Senate avoid gridlock” (Landrieu), New Orleans Times-Picayune, Dec. 1). See also John Godfrey, “US Senate Democrats Seek To Revive Class-Action Bill”, Dow Jones/Yahoo, Nov. 17 (Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., also said to be open to compromise).

Latest 17200 targets: drugmakers

Trial lawyers are hoping to turn California’s endlessly abused and abusive s. 17200 “unfair competition” law (Oct. 26, etc.) to rich new account by using it to sue pharmaceutical companies over a variety of marketing practices that the U.S. Congress and Food and Drug Administration have not seen fit to ban. The Ralph Nader operation is helping out, while the litigation effort is being handled by Seattle trial lawyer and tobacco-caper veteran Steve Berman of Hagens & Berman (see Sept. 9-10, 2002 and links from there). (Bernadette Tansey, “Citizens use law to pursue drug firms”, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 23; plaintiff’s site (“Prescription Access Litigation”). Update: see Point of Law, Nov. 8, 2004.