Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Don't Let Tort "Reformers" Shut the Courthouse Door

The awful death of a four-year-old on the Mission: Space ride at Epcot in Disney World hit home with Mary-Jo and me. We'd taken our (then) five-year-old grandson Jakob on the same ride just four months ago. (He's fine.) When Mary-Jo and I discussed the tragedy over dinner tonight, she astutely pointed out that this is a perfect illustration of the dangers in Republican-style tort "reform"--which really means, of course, limiting the ability of ordinary citizens to sue corporations.

As this story explains, the Disney corporation is so powerful in Florida that they've been able to pressure state lawmakers into exempting them from all safety regulations. (There's no federal regulation of theme parks.) In effect, Disney in Florida is accountable to no one. Which is why the Mission: Space ride reopened within hours of the accident, precluding any independent investigation of its causes and any possible dangers posed to other riders.

Thankfully, rules governing theme park operations do exist in other states, including California and New Jersey. But as Mary-Jo put it, when a corporation amasses the kind of power Disney has in Florida, the only regulation to which it's subject comes in the form of lawsuits. We need to fight to make sure that protection isn't "reformed" away.
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