Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
America is at an economic crossroads, and lawmakers have to choose between two paths.
One path will force millions of more small businesses to close without acknowledging the progress we have made on the pandemic; the other will allow Americans to get back to work.
FED PLEDGES AGGRESSIVE ACTION TO SUPPORT US ECONOMY It seems like an obvious and easy decision. Even some of America’s most liberal governors, from Colorado to Kansas and Minnesota, have chosen the latter road.
But opening America for business will take more than a pronouncement from politicians in Washington, D.C. It will take administrative and legislative action, particularly when it comes to the trial lawyers who are circling overhead like vultures.
That’s why now, both Congress and the Trump administration are focused on stopping what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dubbed the “lawsuit pandemic.” It’s easy to understand why the lawyers gave nearly $40 million more in donations to Hillary Clinton than they did to Donald Trump in 2016. Politicians that look favorably upon expanding the regulatory state provide them with far more litigation opportunities. And so, it should come as no surprise that trial lawyers have responded to the president’s coronavirus deregulatory relief efforts with a deluge of frivolous litigation attempts to cancel out large portions of the gains it would otherwise bring to the nation’s recovery.
On Monday, McConnell said that fixing this issue will be a principal focus of the next congressional relief bill. In an interview with CNBC last week, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow also signaled his commitment to administrative and congressional action, stating, “Businesses, particularly small businesses that don’t have massive resources, should not be held liable; should not be held to trial lawyers putting on false lawsuits that will probably be thrown out of court.”
Their leadership on this issue is appreciated and couldn’t come at a better time. The lawfare mercenaries are already in full swing, aiming their assault at the pandemic’s frontline workers – those who are performing unfamiliar jobs in challenging circumstances in a heroic effort to keep America safe.
These legal soldiers of fortune – in another time and context they’d be called ambulance chasers – have ads targeting nursing homes to drum up lawsuits, one in ten of which have confirmed cases. The emergency room doctors and nurses struggling with equipment shortages anticipate they will be next. So do many of the nation’s essential businesses that have continued their operations, from the drivers making critical deliveries of needed supplies to the distilleries making hand sanitizer and hotels and schools housing vulnerable people.
In this target-rich environment, the trial lawyers are shooting everything that moves.
Others, including two celebrity chefs Wolfgang Puck and José Andrés, are working with the trial bar to receive claim money they don't deserve. These celebrities have pledged massive litigation unless Congress gives in and create a special bailout fund on their behalf.
Frivolous litigation has been found to reduce GDP by over 2-percent a year, or over $3,300 per household, and that number will almost assuredly increase as the pandemic suits are shaping up to be even more aggressive than usual. With forecasts already expecting another 30-percent drop to GDP in the second quarter, it’s critical for Congress and the administration to step in and protect America’s recovery efforts from these outside threats.
On April 15, a coalition of over 20 conservative groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for Freedom & Prosperity, Americans for Prosperity, and FreedomWorks, wrote urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Judiciary Committee leaders Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and other congressional leaders to address liability issues. Specifically, the groups asked the legislative branch to “embrace reasonable constitutional reform proposals to create shields from trial lawyers’ frivolous, costly, and job-killing litigation schemes.”
Some members, including Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb, Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have already offered legislation that would help.
The time is now to look at their proposals more closely and consider the introduction of other measures that will protect the American people from frivolous lawsuits in this pandemic.
It makes no sense for Congress and the White House to spend records amount of money to resurrect the U.S. economy only to see a large portion of the funds end up in the pockets of greedy trial lawyers.
Refusal to act is tantamount to ensuring millions of Americans will have no jobs to go back to when this crisis inevitably passes.
Curtis Ellis is Policy Director with America First Policies. He served as senior policy adviser on the 2016 Trump-Pence campaign, on the Presidential Transition Team, and as special advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Labor in the International Labor Affairs Bureau.