Tort Law and Judicial System
Many people know who Ralph Nader is as a political activist, but few would know that he recently opened a Tort Museum in Connecticut. “Tort law” is a legal phrase that gets tossed around a lot, but not many people understand what it truly entails. Tort law is the part of our judicial system that governs claims for wrongdoing, whether the wrongdoing is something done by a corporation or an individual. If you are injured by the acts or omissions of big business, or by the negligent driver of a car that ran into you, you have the right to participate in tort law by filing a law suit in the appropriate court.
This summer, Mr. Nader opened a museum in Winsted, Connecticut to address the history of tort law and the important cases where consumers have been helped by someone filing a law suit against “big business.” Recently, he participated in an interview where he stated that the judicial system in the United States is the only part of our government where one individual acting on their own can change the way business is done.
One individual generally cannot change anything through the legislative branch or executive branch (unless the person in question happens to be the President), but they can affect change through the judicial system. A successful law suit can affect change in the way a company does business, and serve as incentive to take appropriate safety precautions so another consumer will not be harmed again.
Tort lawsuits are sometimes written off as frivolous, but they are not when these decisions change the way a company does business for the better.
As an example, when children were injured because their pajamas caught fire easily, lawsuits were filed against the manufacturers of children’s pajamas because they were using cheap, non fire-retardant material which caused harm to the consumers. These lawsuits forced the manufacturers to start making flame retardant children’s pajamas, and as a result many lives were saved. This is the power of one person, filing a law suit against big business. When a corporation factors in the cost of deaths and injuries into their cost of doing business, and does not take adequate safety precautions, a lawsuit can change that thinking.
Generally, as a workers’ compensation lawyer, the law does not allow us to file suits against employers for negligence; however, there are still the rare cases wherein an employer can be sued for this. An injured employee always has the right to file a claim for New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits even when they cannot prove fault.
In order to sue an employer for negligence for a workplace injury in New Jersey, the employee must be able to prove that the employer knew with substantial certainty that their conduct would result in certain harm to the employee. This is a very high standard that is almost never allowed by the courts in New Jersey. That being said, there are workers’ compensation monetary awards available to injured workers, regardless of fault, that can be pursued with the help of an attorney. While they are not technically part of tort law, monetary awards are available to injured workers regardless of fault.
If you are in the Connecticut area, and interested in learning more about how tort lawsuits have shaped businesses and our American culture as a whole, it would be beneficial to stop by Mr. Nader’s American Museum of Tort Law.