"A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity." - Ralph Nader, activist, author, attorney
One of Ralph Nader's long-held ambitions has come true: the American Museum of Tort Law, located in Winsted, Connecticut, is a real thing now. According to its website, the museum's vision is to increase citizen understanding of tort law and its role in protecting personal freedom, health and safety through the civil justice system.
As law professor John Culhane writes for Politico Magazine (Ralph Nader's Strange New Museum), there are those who might imagine a "pedantic slog through the history of tort law" - in short, a rather unexciting museum experience - but the reality is anything but.
On-target Design: Depictions of Famous Cases
First off, Nader tapped the same designers that applied their talents to the Jurassic Park exhibit at Universal Studios. The result is striking life-size visuals and depictions of major tort cases, most of them very recognizable, such as the Ford Pinto case, the case against Big Tobacco, and the case of the woman who suffered burns from scalding McDonald's coffee.
On-target Message: The Truth about Tort Law
But there's a point to these well-designed exhibits.
"By emphasizing cases where the civil justice system led not only to compensation for injured parties, but also to changes in corporate practice that made everyone safer," Culhane writes, "the museum reveals the truth about tort law - and likely leaves visitors with more sympathy towards it."
Class Action against VW
A perfect recent example of the need for tort law to protect consumers is the VW scandal. We were among the first law firms to file a class action lawsuit against VW, when regulators discovered that Europe's largest automaker was cheating the system and cheating American consumers in the process.
Most startling about VW's wrongdoing are recent allegations that 60 people suffered early deaths, based on a study conducted by MIT and Harvard researchers (a story brought to us by Wired), owing to vehicles that emitted up to 40 times the legal limit of certain toxic emissions.
We Must Honor Our Civil Justice System
The Volkswagen case - not yet a museum exhibit - is a prime example of why it's so important that we protect and honor our civil justice system and its function in the administration of tort law. It's also why Ralph Nader's American Museum of Tort Law - as strange as such as idea is for a museum - is so exciting for lawyers like us.