Why Lawsuits Are Good for America: Disciplined Democracy, Big Business, and the Common Law

By Carl T. Bogus | Go to book overview

8
The Common Law and
the Future

Tobacco and Guns

On January 8, 1998, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that lawyers for the City of Philadelphia were prepared to institute an action against gun manufacturers.1 It was, at least publicly, a new idea. According to the article, the complaint would claim that gun manufacturers had created a public nuisance by saturating Philadelphia with guns. “The approach mirrors that taken by a group of state attorneys general who negotiated a groundbreaking settlement with the tobacco industry,” noted the newspaper.

This report that Philadelphia was considering such an action received national attention. Not only is Philadelphia the fifth largest city in the nation, but its mayor, Edward G. Rendell, was sufficiently prominent and popular at a national level to have earned the sobriquet “America's mayor.”

Mayor Rendell never filed that action, however.2 In fact, subsequent reports led some observers to wonder whether information contained in the January 8 article had been leaked to the press by people within the Rendell administration or its legal team who feared they were fighting a losing battle to convince the mayor to proceed with the lawsuit.3 Rendell had reason to consider the political ramifications of such an action carefully. Between the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh lie more than 250 mostly rural miles. Nearly a quarter of a million members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) live in Pennsylvania, and the conventional wisdom is that politicians with statewide ambitions cannot afford to cross the NRA.4 In any event, Rendell decided against proceeding.

But the genie was out of the bottle. Other mayors were persuaded about the merits of suing the gun industry. By the time Rendell announced

-197-

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Why Lawsuits Are Good for America: Disciplined Democracy, Big Business, and the Common Law
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Why Tell Tales? 6
  • 2: War on the Common Law 22
  • 3: The Third Branch of Government 42
  • 4: Disciplined Democracy and the American Jury 66
  • 5: The American Common Law System 102
  • 6: Who Regulates Auto Safety? 138
  • 7: The Three Revolutions in Products Liability 173
  • 8: The Common Law and the Future 197
  • Notes 221
  • Index 259
  • About the Author 265
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