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Danny Feldman
Danny Feldman
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Accidents Happen? What the BP spill and Massey explosion reveal

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You hear it all the time – accidents happen. You can’t take misfortune out of the realm of possibility. Suing over an "accident" shows what is wrong with us as a country – we want to "blame" someone for every little thing in life that goes wrong.

Just the other day, Rand Paul, the Tea Party supported Republican nominee for the Kentucky Senate said the above regarding both the BP spill and the Massey explosion. Why, according to Paul, the problem was not with the companies making billons of dollars, or the federal regulators, asleep at the wheel, but rather with the victims of these "accidents" who have the termitity to sue.

In trying cases for the last 20 plus years, I’ve talked to many jurors who have found in favor of a defendant who basically base their judgement on the philosophy that "accidents happen" or that the injured plaintiff failed to take presonal resposibility and wants to blame someone else for his injuries.

What has happenned to "corporate responsibility?" For goodness sakes, corporations now have been found to have the same 1st Amendment rights of living, breathing humans. Why aren’t corporations held responsible for their conscious decisions to increase profit despite the risk of catastrophe?

Its interesting, but hardly surprising, to see the facts that are emerging about these two disasters. Massey had numerous safety violations – instead of making the workplace safer, it appealed the violations. BP, and its partners cut corners, got rid of redundant safety mechanisms, wined and dined regulators so that regulations were not enforced, but rather were overlooked. When someone reaches across the table and spills a glass of water that’s in the middle of a table, that’s an accident; when someone places a glass of water on the very edge of the table such that the slightest movement of the table will knock it off, that’s an "accident waiting to happen."

This is exactly what has happenned here. Corporations, eager to increase the bottom line, have created a situation akin to the glass at the edge of a table – an accident waiting to happen. And why have they done this? Of course, the bottom line. Less regulation, more money for the company and its executives and its shareholders. Of course, the Wall Street debacle is the same story. Lax government regulators, waiting their turn to "make some money" working for industry; lax laws by legislators eager for corporate campaign contributions and what do you expect?

Forgetting for a moment the incredible ecological damage and economic catastrophe for the whole Gulf Coast, eleven people died in the BP explosion; 29 miners died in the Massey explosion; tens of thousands of nest eggs were wiped out by Wall Street excess – but the people that were killed or injured and sue are the bad guys for trying to be compensated? Really? Is that where we are now?