Grassroot Perspective – April 15, 2003-Comments on the Draft Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program; Senators McCain and Lieberman Push for New Anti-Global Warming Legislation; The Bush Administration's Environmental Policy: Mid-Term Report Card PERC; The Limits of Lawsuits

article top

“Dick Rowland Image”

”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– Comments on the Draft Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science

By Joseph L. Bast

The Heartland Institute

The Draft Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program does an
admirable job avoiding advocacy and rhetoric, focusing on research
questions that need to be addressed, and balancing the contradictory
convictions of some of its authors and contributors. In particular, it
stresses the uncertainty of climate change science and predictions and
calls for testing climate models against the climate record. However, in
a few places the Plan is still agenda-driven rather than aimed at
“credible fact finding.”

CONTACT: Heartland Institute, 19 South LaSalle St., Suite 903, Chicago,
IL 60603,312/377-4000, email

– Senators McCain and Lieberman Push for New Anti-Global Warming

By Amy Ridenour

Ten Second Response, National Center for Public Policy Research

The McCain-Lieberman legislation would set up mandatory greenhouse gas
reduction targets for every major sector of the U.S. economy. If
approved, it stands a chance of pushing a frail economic recovery into a
major relapse, yet it is extremely unlikely to have discernible
influence on global temperatures. Scientists point out that the Earth
has gone through repeated cycles of gradual warming and cooling for
millions of years. This isn’t likely to change under orders from the
U.S. Senate.

CONTACT: National Center for Public Policy Research, 777 N. Capitol St.
NE #803, Washington, DC 20002, 202/371-1400, fax 202/408-7773, email

– The Bush Administration’s Environmental Policy: Mid-Term Report Card

President Bush doesn’t quite score a “gentleman’s C” in PERC’s new
Mid-Term Report Card on the Bush administration’s environmental policy.
PERC-the Center for Free Market Environmentalism-rates the president on
how well he applied free market principles to environmental policy
during his first two years. These principles include respect for
property rights, market trading, and decentralization. The overall score
is a C-.

CONTACT: PERC, 502 S. 19th Ave., Suite 211, Bozeman, MT 59718,
406/587-9591, email

Above articles are quoted from Heritage Foundation, The Insider 2/2003.

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

– The Limits of Lawsuits

Asbestos Litigation is the Leading Edge of the Legal System Meltdown

By Wayne T. Brough, Ph.D

CSE Chief Economist

The litigation crisis in America has reached a milestone. In the wake of
three decades of asbestos litigation-a trail marked by bankruptcies,
hundreds of thousands of lawsuits, multibillion-dollar judgments, and
real victims who have yet to be compensated-even the American Bar
Association and some trial lawyers are admitting that something might be

Asbestos provides a good example of the crisis in the courtroom, because
it was here that trial lawyers honed their skills of mass tort
litigation, where large class action lawsuits are brought against
companies, or even entire industries. Asbestos was in widespread use
throughout much of the 20th century, due to its abundance, low cost, and
heat-resistant properties. Unfortunately, it was found to pose real
health risks, including the fatal cancer mesothelioma, lung cancer and
other cancers, debilitating and potentially fatal asbestiosis, and
injuries or scarring to the tissue surrounding the lungs.

For a long time, these cases were addressed under workers’ compensation,
but in 1973, a legal decision in the Fifth Circuit of the U.S. Court of
Appeals moved the issue into the courtroom. Originally, there were
roughly 40 companies involved in the legal proceedings. However, as
these companies went bankrupt and no longer had funds to pay awards,
trial lawyers cast a wider net, targeting “peripheral” companies that
did not manufacture asbestos but may have used products that contained
it (even companies where any asbestos was encapsulated in the product
and not likely to pose a significant risk). Today, there are over 8,000
companies mired in the legal process according to Marcia Coyle of the
National Law Journal, with many having only a tangential link to the
original health risks.

Despite the fact that the use of asbestos peaked in the early 1970s, the
number of claims continues to rise, and the flood of lawsuits is not
helping the victims. According to the American Academy of Actuaries,
there were 60,000 asbestos lawsuits filed in 2000 -up from the 20,000
filed in 1990. Of these, 54,000 are suits for non-malignant injuries,
which pose a particular challenge, because many claimants may have no
symptoms that in any way hamper their life or pose a definite threat. It
is the potential future risk that is the source of the claim. Yet, for
many, this future risk may never materialize. As president-elect of the
American Bar Association, Dennis Archer, described the problem, “In
retrospect, however, it is clear that a countervailing trend was
emerging and accelerating in the 1990s: for profit litigation screenings
began systematically generating tens of thousands of new non-malignant
claims each year by individuals who had some degree of occupational
asbestos exposure, but did not have, and probably would never get an
impairing asbestos-related disease ” The challenge this creates is that
lawsuits by victims without symptoms are draining funds that could be
better used to compensate real victims.

With respect to asbestos, the legal system has ground to a halt, so much
so that almost all parties are looking for some type of reform. In fact,
there is bipartisan support in the Senate; Judiciary Chairman Orrin
Hatch (R-Utah) and ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are working to
produce a legislative solution. Some are looking to establish a trust
fund to compensate victims; others are looking to establish a “medical
criteria” that would narrow litigation to claimants diagnosed with
asbestos-related symptoms.

But asbestos litigation also highlights the need for more fundamental
reforms to the civil justice system. For example, joint and several
liability rules that allow trial lawyers to search for the deepest
pockets and biggest awards and ill-defined classes often make their
members placeholders in legal proceedings initiated by lawyers.
Procedural issues, such as the use of questionable science, have crowded
the courts with many cases of dubious merit. While resolving the
asbestos issue is important, an asbestos-specific solution does little
to alter the future of mass tort litigation. The fast food industry, gun
manufacturers, automakers, and a host of other industries are all
vulnerable to similar class action lawsuits.

In the current system, awards are uncertain and unpredictable, often
determined more by where the case is filed than the true need for
compensation. In an effort to maximize the award and their share of
legal fees, trial lawyers engage in “forum shopping,” seeking out courts
with favorable judges and juries. As the American Academy of Actuaries
noted, for example, Mississippi has only 1 percent of the U.S.
population, but 20 percent of the asbestos claims are filed there. In
fact, only five states are responsible for two-thirds of all asbestos
filings between 1998 and 2000, according to David Austern, general
counsel for the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust.

The courts play a valuable role in deterring dangerous behavior and
compensating victims. But a legal system clogged with cases and
unpredictable decisions serves no one-not the sick, not consumers, and
not companies and their employees. Sensible reforms to the civil justice
system would serve victims better while reducing the costly burden of
litigation in America. The asbestos case has reached the point where
almost everyone sees some reforms as necessary. Elsewhere, the House and
several states are pursuing legal reforms to address the growing crisis
in health care due to the rising costs of medical malpractice insurance.
Is it possible that these efforts are the first stirrings of a real
attempt to reform a legal system that has lost its mooring?

Above article is quoted from Citizens for a Sound Economy, Lawsuit
Abuse, March 19, 2003

”Evergreen (Today’s Quote)”

“Markets are not perfect. After all, markets consist of millions upon
millions of imperfect independent decision-makers like you and me.
Abundant evidence, not faith, demonstrates that markets are far more
reliable and predictable than a bunch of arrogant politicians and
bureaucrats.” — Opinion of the Week-Walter Williams

”’Edited by Richard O. Rowland, president of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He can be reached at (808) 487-4959 or by email at:”’ ”’For more information, see its Web site at:”’