Burg Simpson Founding Shareholder Michael S. Burg is featured in the current edition of Law Week Colorado. In the in-depth article below, Mr. Burg urges Colorado state senators and state house representatives to act to reduce or eliminate immunity for governmental entities that are found guilty of wrongdoing and ensure that corporations and individuals who engage in negligent acts are held fully accountable for their actions.
Read on for Michael Burg’s article, published on January 21, 2013 in Law Week Colorado (Print Edition).
As we move into 2013, the challenges faced by trial lawyers in the coming years remains significant. We are fortunate in Colorado to have a Democratic State Senate, a Democratic State House of Representatives, and a Democratic Governor. This should act as a rallying cry for all trial attorneys. It is an opportunity for trial lawyers to voice our concerns and opinions to our elected officials, to get them to act during this legislative session.
What should we expect from our elected officials? We should expect that our elected officials will be consumer advocates, protecting the citizens of the State of Colorado. Individual consumer rights are being attacked and weakened by large corporations, and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. We should expect our legislators to take a good, hard look at damage caps in this state and strongly consider removing them in some cases, and increasing the caps in other cases. Individuals who, through no fault of their own suffer catastrophic injuries, should be wholly and completely compensated for their injuries, and made whole. Corporations or individuals who engage in negligent or reckless conduct should be held fully accountable for their actions. Damage caps very often make that nearly impossible.
Likewise, legislators should reduce or eliminate immunity for governmental entities. The fact is, immunity makes no sense. Municipalities and governments should be held accountable for their wrongful acts the same as individuals and corporations. If they do something reckless, or if they cause harm, they should have to face the same consequences, and should not be given a blank check through governmental immunity. Governmental immunity essentially bars them from accountability and becomes simply an opportunity for carelessness.
Individuals who come to us seeking help, and seeking justice should get full justice; half justice or limited justice is justice denied. It is a travesty that we so often have to inform these individuals that we are unable to give them the help they deserve because of limitations on what they are able to recover. It is difficult to look at someone whose life has been forever changed due to real negligence, and tell them that the wrongdoer is immune; that despite their negligent behavior, they have been given a free pass to perpetrate these wrongful acts on the public at large. It belies the very oath we take as attorneys:
“I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Colorado; … I will treat all persons whom I encounter through my practice of law with fairness, courtesy, respect and honesty; I will use my knowledge of the law for the betterment of society and the improvement of the legal system; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed; …” Colorado Attorney Oath of Admission, [Emphasis added.]
Likewise, corporations should be held accountable for their acts. We all know that if they are not held accountable, then unsafe, defective products will continue to injure tens of thousands of people each year. Injured people will end up on the government rolls where taxpayers pay for the negligence of others while the corporations and insurance companies continue to make large profits to the detriment of the public welfare, while not being held fully accountable for the acts.
We must remember that it is trial lawyers who have forced the car manufacturers to do away with the Ford Pinto and create safety standards so that all Americans driving cars will be safer. It is trial lawyers who, through litigation, have forced corporations to do away with deadly asbestos. It is trial lawyers who, through their actions, caused a list of dangerous products and drugs to be recalled and redesigned. It is trial lawyers who continue to fight to keep America safe and to continue to make sure that all people in America have access to the system and have the ability to seek compensation for their injuries that were caused by others.
As we move into the future we should remember that the American judicial system is truly the best in the world. We must all remember the oath we took as attorneys, and we should remember the strong words of those who came before us:
“Trial by jury is part of a bright constellation which leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” Thomas Jefferson.
If we remember this statement, and if we uphold our oath, we will successfully protect our justice system for all those who depend on it. Let’s make sure this legislative session is a positive move forward for the people of the State of Colorado.