The American Museum of Tort Law opened its doors for the first time last weekend. The museum opening fulfilled a long-time dream of consumer advocate Ralph Nader. The museum stands in Winstead, Connecticut, Mr. Nader's hometown. James E. Butler, Jr., of Butler Wooten & Peak LLP, was invited to speak at the dedication of the museum.
Among other topics, Mr. Butler spoke of the creation of modern American tort law and the role Ralph Nader played in bringing needed change. The importance of tort law in protecting consumers cannot be overstated. Tort litigation is often the only recourse for injury victims and the grieving families of those killed by negligent conduct. Without the possibility of a tort law claim, corporations would be free to ignore consumer safety in the quest for greater profits.
To a large extent, that was the state of affairs before Ralph Nader took on Chevrolet over the problems with the Corvair in the 60s. His book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," led to greater awareness and helped spur the government into action. Since then, automakers have continued to resist many safety initiatives, but they have not been allowed the free reign that they had enjoyed over consumers for so many years.
Tort law and tort lawyers are under attack. The attack represents a coordinated effort by big business to roll back the rights and power of individual consumers. The new museum will hopefully counter some of those attacks by demonstrating just how important tort law is in promoting safety. Recent revelations surrounding the conduct of Volkswagen and General Motors have shown that car companies are willing to deceive and obfuscate to protect themselves at the expense of the public. There is no reason to believe that automakers and the makers of other products can be relied upon to promote safety out of the goodness of their hearts. Justice is dependent on both sides of an argument having power. Without tort law, consumer safety will be at best an afterthought.
Source: Legal Reader, "Ralph Nader's Tort Law Museum Opens in Connecticut," by Jeremy Lesh, 28 September 2015