American Tort Reform Association

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

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American Tort Reform Association is a coalition of medical professional associations and various industry groups -- such as from the chemical, tobacco and drug industries -- promoting changes to U.S legislation to limit corporate and professional liability for damage caused by their products and services. It had revenues of $6.1 million in 2009. It's president in 2009 was Sherman Joyce. In 2009, the firm reported paying almost $1.2 million to the PR firm APCO Worldwide for "consulting," $544,000 to the corporate law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon for "lobbying," and a total of $1.17 million for lobbying, although the organization claims. Sherman Joyce's compensation and benefits package totaled over $405,000 in 2009.[1]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

History and formation

Philip Morris hired APCO Worldwide to manage a massive national effort aimed at altering the American judicial system to be more hostile towards product liability suits ("Tort Reform"). Tort reform was an internal corporate program of Philip Morris, who led other companies into the plan. According to a 1995 Philip Morris Tort Reform Budget, the industry paid APCO Associates almost $1 million in 1995 to implement behind-the-scenes tort reform efforts. APCO's job was to create chapters of "grassroots" citizens' groups called Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALAs). The budget shows the tobacco industry alone budgeted $21.8 million to fund the tort reform effort in the single year of 1995.[2]

Description

ATRA was purportedly co-founded in 1986 by the American Medical Association and the American Council of Engineering Companies as a non-profit organization based on promoting tort & liability reform through public education and legislative action. In particular ATRA lobbies for limits on class actions, abolition of the "rule of joint and several liability", limits on punitive and non-economic damages and "sound science in the courtroom."[3]

On its website ATRA compalins that personal injury lawsuits "are bad for business; they are also bad for society. They compromise access to affordable health care, punish consumers by raising the cost of goods and services, chill innovation, and undermine the notion of personal responsibility. The personal injury lawyers who benefit from the status quo use their fees to perpetuate the cycle of lawsuit abuse. They have reinvested millions of dollars into the political process and in more litigation that acts as a drag on our economy."[3]

Public material published to support these positions include an annual list of "Judicial Hellholes" outlining areas that they find to favor plaintiffs.[4]

ATRA has developed model tort reform laws (The Times 6/12/94).

Ties to the Koch Brothers

Koch Industries sponsored ATRA as early as 2004, according to the Bridge Project.[5]

A snapshot of ATRA's website, archived by the Wayback Machine on August 5, 2004 shows that Koch Insutries was an ATRA member in 2004.[6]

The Bridge project reports further on ATRA's connection to the Koch brothers, "ATRA’s 'Links To Other Civil Justice Reform Websites' Linked To Koch-Connected Sites, Including The Federalist Society, The Washington Legal Foundation, Citizens For A Sound Economy, And The Rand Institute. According to the American Tort Reform Association website, 'Links to Other Civil Justice Reform Websites Other Organizations With Information on Civil Justice Reform Contact these organizations for more information about liability reforms. […] Citizens for a Sound Economy Conservative Grassroots Organization of Citizen Activists Fighting for Tort Reform. […] The Federalist Society Conservative/Libertarian Organization of Attorneys Concerned About the Legal System. The Rand Institute for Civil Justice An Affiliated Think Tank of the RAND Corporation. […] Washington Legal Foundation Defending and Promoting Free Enterprise and Individual Rights Through The Legal System.'"[7][5]

Lobbying Efforts

In the first two quarters of 2012, ATRA spent $20,000 lobbying to support the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2011, and the House companion bill, HR 966, as well as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2012, They also lobbied in support of the "Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011", They lobbied to oppose the Sunshine in Litigation Act of 2011 and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The American Tort Reform Association Spent $80,000 on lobbying efforts in 2008, $90,000 in 2009, $40,000 in 2010, and $40,000 in 2011. ATRA does most of its lobbying itself, but also contracts out to notorious lobby-shop Shook, Hardy, & Bacon.

Members

On its website ATRA does not include a full list of members but provides only a "sample" list of members. These members, as of July 2012, are:[8]

As of March 2008, the "sample list" was slightly different:[9]

Funding

A fact sheet created by Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School provides some detail on ATRA's funding in the 1990's. Their research shows that ATRA was primarily funded by the tobacco industry and large corporations:[10]

  • "ATRA's members are largely Fortune 500 companies with a direct financial stake in restricting lawsuits. Members have included representatives of the tobacco, insurance, chemical, auto and pharmaceutical industries. Corporate giants like Philip Morris, Dow Chemical, Exxon, General Electric, Aetna, Geico and Nationwide have all supported ATRA. Gannon, Tort Deform - Lethal Bedfellows, Essential Information, 1995, pp. 23-25. Legal Times also reported that, 'most of [ATRA's] funding comes from large corporate donors. Insurance firms... are each good for $50,000 or $75,000, one unnamed lobbyist familiar with the Association told the publication.' 'Proponents of Reform,' Legal Times, April 17, 1995, cited in Silverstein, Smoke & Mirrors, Public Citizen Congress Watch, 1996, p. 11."
  • "The tobacco industry has supported ATRA, directly through Philip Morris, and indirectly through Covington & Burling, the law firm for the now-defunct Tobacco Institute and other major tobacco companies. Newly released documents from the Tobacco Archives show that in 1995, the tobacco industry allocated nearly $5.5 million for ATRA, more than half of ATRA's $10.2 million budget according to the Associated Press. The documents also show that Covington & Burling acted as a funnel for much of this tobacco industry money, which was then paid out to other organizations. 'Report Says Tobacco Industry Quietly Backed Tort Reform,' Associated Press, February 21, 1999; Tort Reform Project Budget, Covington & Burling, October 3, 1995, Document #2041201160 et seq. The budget indicates that by October 3, the project had already given about $3 million to ATRA."

Personnel

Staff

As of March 2008, ATRA staff include[11]:

Contact details

American Tort Reform Association
1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202 682-1163
Fax 202 682-1022
Website: http://www.atra.org/

External resources

References

  1. American Tort Reform Association/Internal Revenue Service/Guidestar 2009 IRS Form 990, government reporting form, accessed January 25,2012
  2. Covington & Burling Tort Reform Project Budget, Budget, October 3, 1995, Bates No. 2047648299/8307
  3. 3.0 3.1 American Tort Reform Association, "ATRA - At a Glance", accessed March 2008.
  4. American Tort Reform Foundation, Judicial Hellholes® 2007", 2007. (Pdf)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bridge Project, Koch-Sponsored American Tort Reform Association Backed Multiple Tort Reform Projects, organizational website, April 1, 2015.
  6. ATRA, ATRA 50 Representative Members, organizational website, archived on August 5, 2004.
  7. ATRA, Links to Other Civil Justice Reform Websites, organizational website, archived on October 9, 2004.
  8. American Tort Reform Association, Sample List of ATRA Members, organizational website, accessed July 2, 2012
  9. American Tort Reform Association, Sample List of ATRA Members, organizational website, accessed March 2008, archived by the Wayback Machine, May 13, 2008
  10. Center for Justice and Democracy, Fact Sheet: American Tort Reform Association, New York Law School, accessed March 8, 2017.
  11. "ATRA Staff", accessed March 2008


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