Tort of the Century
I’m probably not the only attorney in America who was inspired to pursue a law career by the accomplishments of Ralph Nader. In my case, it was a mistake. I should have gone to library school but, argumentative person that I am, I thought I was cut out for advocacy. Making the best of a bad decision, I restricted my practice to the cause of ordinary individuals, especially injured and disadvantaged people. My professional biases and prejudices have always run parallel to those of Ralph Nader. In civil matters, I’ve always been a plaintiff’s lawyer.
One of Nader’s major projects, the American Museum of Tort Law, located in an old bank building about a half-hour from me in Winsted, Connecticut, should be an attraction for plaintiffs’ lawyers. I visited the museum a few weeks ago, when I joined the “studio” audience for a radio broadcast featuring an interview with Nader. The museum is impressive. There are exhibits illustrating precedent-setting cases involving asbestos, cigarettes, automobiles, dangerous toys, and superheated coffee, among other hazards. Each exhibit explores specific issues of civil liability for injury caused by wrongful conduct, the legal definition of the term “tort.” Most of the exhibits consist of big posters by fine-art cartoonists accompanied by plain-language explanatory text. There’s a collection of interesting exhibits, including an array of hazardous toys and a shiny, deadly Chevrolet Corvair.
What’s spectacularly missing from the museum is any mention of the tort of the century that occurred in New York City on September 11, 2001..