Legal Brief: Frivolous Thoughts on a Frivolous Case; Coca-Cola Can’t Win; Civil Justice Costs Up 100-Fold

Frivolous Thoughts on a Frivolous Case

The environmentalist organization Friends of the Earth has said it is suing energy companies over perceived global warming.

As befits a frivolous lawsuit, some frivolous thoughts:

* “Global warming,” in colloquial usage, refers a theory predicting certain things about the future. Imagine the court testimony: “Your Honor, in the future, we expect to be injured… but we want the money now.”

* Energy companies sell nothing without customers, so if it genuinely cares about the environment more than deep-pockets plaintiffs, Friends of the Earth also should sue these customers, who tend to be the ones who burn the oil. (Of course, it would have to sue itself.)

* Friends if the Earth thanks a European outfit called the “Minor Foundation for Major Challenges” for paying for their work on this lawsuit. That’s a new wrinkle on the global warming debate, which previously had been funded by major foundations chasing a minor challenge.

* As a defensive legal strategy, energy companies should consider a halt on sales to anyone planning to sue them. After a week or two, prospective plaintiffs will recall that energy has its uses.

* Friends of the Earth’s director boasts their “global warming report should send shivers through the boardrooms.” Anyone using the term “shivers” in connection with “warming” is not to be feared.

* Evidence of shivering in a boardroom may be used in court as evidence against global warming.

* Friends of the Earth says it singles out ExxonMobil as a defendant in its lawsuit because ExxonMobil “has repeatedly attempted to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change and actively resisted attempts to limit carbon dioxide emissions through law.” In other words, ExxonMobil has disagreed with Friends of the Earth on scientific and legislative issues. Mediating such disagreements is not the purpose of courts.

Note to self: Plan the mother of all lawsuits — one against environmentalists.

First up in the docket: The next-of-kin of millions of Third Worlders, very many of them children, who have died needlessly from malaria because environmentalists won’t admit they are wrong about DDT.

Second up: The half million kids who go blind in the Third World due to a Vitamin A deficiency that could have been addressed with agricultural biotechnology — technology opposed by wealthy First World environmentalists.

Third up: The next-of-kin of the 2,000 extra people killed in the U.S. every year since 1975 (National Academies of Science 2002 estimate) because environmentalist-supported fuel economy standards reduced the safety of passenger vehicles.

Fourth up: Any American who lost someone or something in forest fire because the environmentalist belief that land should be left untouched by humanity stopped forest thinning projects and other sane fire control measures. (Governor Schwarzenegger, call your office.)

I could go on, but I’ll end on a serious note: Courtrooms are not the place to tackle the climate change issue and similar public policy debates that can dramatically affect the public. Jurists are not scientists and judges are not supposed to be legislators.

Friends of the Earth would do better to take its case to the people, through the legislative process.

-by Amy Ridenour

Tort Du Jour: Coca Cola Can’t Win

The recipe for Coca-Cola is a closely guarded secret, and the Coca-Cola company has been pleasing customers since 1886. But that hasn’t stopped a group of class action lawyers from suing the company, saying they don’t like the company’s recipe.

It seems that Coca-Cola uses the sweetener Aspartame in bottles marketed for home use, and uses saccharin (in part) in soda fountains. the reason, Coca-Cola says, is that Aspartame is not as stable for fountain use.

Plaintiffs in the case say they should have been warned that fountain soda contains saccharin instead of the preferred Aspartame.

Meanwhile, another group of plaintiffs is suing Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and ten other companies for using Aspartame, saying it “is a drug masquerading as an additive.”

Source: Kelly Cramer, “The Real Thing,” Miami Daily Business Review/, May 11, 2004; “Aspartame Lawsuits Accuse Many Companies of Poisoning the Public,” Press Release, World Natural Health Organization and World Justice League, April 6, 2004; Walter olson, “Diet Coke Formula: Variation = Unfairness,”, May 6, 2004

Testimony: Civil Justice Costs Up 100-Fold

“Over the last 50 years, the cost of our civil justice system has increased by over 100-fold, from less than $2 billion in 1950 to $205 billion in 2001. By comparison, U.S. economic growth as measured by Gross Domestic Product increased by a factor of only 34 during that period.”

Source: “Trends and Findings on the Costs of the U.S. Tort System,” Tillinghast ­ Towers Perrin, 2002 Update

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