Nader Denounces Bill Limiting Lawsuits / before Oklahoma Senate

Article excerpt

Ralph Nader, the nation's leading consumer advocate, on Monday denounced a bill limiting damages on civil lawsuits i n an impassioned speech on the floor of the Oklahoma Senate.

"The measures in this bill are cruel, unnecessary and vindictive," Nader said. "They limit the rights of the most vulnerable and innocent people in our society - people who are brain damaged or quadriplegic as the result of a car accident or defective product."

The bill, Nader said, is the result of a conspiracy by Lloyd's of London and other foreign reinsurance firms to extort money out of American business and professional people by cancelling their liability insurance, without cause in many instances, and raising premiums by 500 percent or more.

"Lloyd's of London and the other foreign insurers are pulling the strings in this country, so day care centers and obstetricians can't get insurance," Nader told the state Senate.

The measure, House Bill 1892, is awaiting review by a Senate committee. The House passed it by a vote of 89-10 last week.

"Just like no doctor would conduct surgery without an x-ray," Nader said, "no legislature should be stampeded into judgment without considering the facts. . .I urge you not to do it."

Instead, Nader told state lawmakers they needed to set up a legislative commission, with subpoena powers, to investigate the insurance industry.

"This is an industry that is exempt from anti-trust legislation," Nader said.

"In the past 10 years, the property and casualty insurance industry earned $72 billion. Yet it paid less than zero federal income tax.

"This," Nader said, "is an industry that can create its own losses by exaggerating its reserves."

State law needs to be reformed to give the State Insurance Department more teeth to require additional disclosure on profits and losses by insurance firms, Nader said.

His appearance was publicized by the bill's opponents, including the state AFL-CIO, the Oklahoma Federation of Teachers and the Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Association.

The bill is supported by a coalition of 60 business and professional groups, called Oklahomans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

Nader blistered the Oklahoma Press Association and its executive director, Ben Blackstock, for organizing the coalition that is lobbying for passage of the bill.

"Mr. Blackstock ought to be ashamed of himself," Nader said. …

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