If you’ve been up for a while, and had the chance to read the Sunday Review section of today’s NewYork Times, you may have seen an article entitled “Don’t Take Your Vitamins.” If you haven’t read it, please do.
It will tell you two things. First, taking antioxidants, particlarly in large quantities, is not a great idea. The author, a physician, relies on studies that show disturbing results. Not only did anti-oxidants not help certain populations–they actually hurt by bringing on cancers.
Good to know, and interesting from a scientific standpoint. But the author’s second point is disturbing in the way that makes you want to shout out loud, or break something. The dangers of large doses of supplemental antioxidants are not well known to most Americans, because that’s the way the vitamin manufacturing industry wants it. In 1972, the FDA proposed a bill that would have regulated supplements that contained over 150% of the recommended daily allowance. But the industry tapped a Democratic Senator, William Proxmire, who created a bill preventing the FDA from engaging in exactly that type of regulation, and in 1976, it became law.
As the author, Dr. Paul A. Offit, warns: “As a result, consumers don’t know that taking megavitamins could increase their risk of cancer and heart disease and shorten their lives.”
So here we have yet another example of corporate America doing its very best to keep profits high, even if it means endangering the health of consumers by keeping them in the dark. This is one of the founding tenets underlying “tort reform.” Remember when Philip Morris maintained cigarettes did not cause cancer? When Ford maintained the Pinto was safe? When Chrysler, this very week, maintained that its Jeeps were safe, despite regular instances of passengers being incinerated while driving them?
It is all about avoiding accountability to the American consumer. And in keeping with such insidious, profit-driven tactics, corporate America, the biggest collective supporter of the “tort reform” lie, does not like to disclose dangers associated with its products voluntarily. In most cases, it has required the intervention of plaintiffs’ lawyers, because we talk in the only language corporate America understands: money. It is only when they see the potential threat to their bottom line that a lawsuit could bring that the pendulum swings toward consumer safety, and away from Swiss bank accounts.
In 2009 the lives of David and Linda Kubert were irreversibly changed for the worse when a vehicle driven by a distracted driver plowed into their motorcycle and severed a leg on each of them. The driver, a high school student named Kyle Best, had exchanged 62 text messages with his girlfriend, Shannon Colonna, in the hours leading up to the crash.
What is notable about this case is that the Kuberts sued not only Best for negligence, but Colonna as well. Read More
As I write, it is a beautiful spring day in the greater NYC area. It is the kind of day that motivates you to get out on the road in your sporty convertible and take the top down. You know, let the breeze fly through your hair as the sun shines down and excites your inner race-car driver. Well, you might enjoy that experience if you had a sporty convertible, and a full head of hair. Not all of us do, but one day…
But it is also a time to think more sobering thoughts, such as: Is the car I am driving safe? A fair question considering history has proved time and again that car manufacturers will not reveal defects in their products until forced to do so, either by the government, or by plaintiffs’ lawyers. As all good students of recent legal history will recall, Ford was happy to allow passengers to burn to death in its Pinto, because the cost of defending or settling a few lawsuits was less than the cost to modify the manufacturing process needed to address the tap-and-ignite gas tank.
A recent National Law Journal article revisited Toyota’s sudden acceleration issues. Toyota had executed a masterful public relations campaign that calmed the public, and cast blame on driver error and misplaced or wrong-sized floor mats, instead of electronics. Conservative commentators, on line and in the news, jumped on the opportunity to malign injured or dead plaintiffs and their attorneys, based on Toyota’s focus on driver error, and on initial testing. They relished the opportunity to further their “tort reform”-based agenda of shielding Toyota from accountability, while portraying plaintiffs as bloodsuckers on the hindquarters of corporate America.
All of this worked well for Toyota, and tort reform, until the real experts became involved. In the investigation a Toyota insider shared some incriminating emails, all of which is discussed in detail in the National Law Journal’s article, which is entitled, “Is Toyota Telling the Truth About Sudden Acceleration?” Clearly, as the National Law Journal article points out, its CEO of USA Motor Sales was not telling the truth when he told a House subcommittee that “no problems exist in our electronic throttle systems in our vehicles…[on which] We have done extensive testing…and have never found a malfunction that caused unintended acceleration.”
And now Ford Motor Co. has returned to the national spotlight with a lawsuit which includes claims that it failed to install brake overrides to handle electronic defects that resulted in sudden acceleration. This comes via the April 4, 2013 Daily Report in the National Law Journal. Not surprisingly, Ford knew about the problems in 2002, but failed to take corrective action until 2010 in North American vehicles, according to the suit’s claims.
The cars involved include, according to the article: “Ford’s Explorer, Focus and Taurus; eight Lincoln models, including the Town Car; and eight Mercury Models, including the Grand Marquis and Sable.”
So have fun on the road this spring. But don’t forget to do your homework. The car makers won’t do it for you.