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Litigious Vultures Circling Katrina Disaster Zone.

Most attorneys in this country are good people, but there are significant numbers of lawyers who do hair-pullingly annoying things to justify all those lawyer jokes. Indeed, Americans view lawyers less favorably with each passing year; since 1977, in surveys of prestige, lawyers have slipped from 36% to 17%.

The latest legal frivolity/counterproductivity is on display in the Louisiana and Mississippi. Lawyers are suing oil companies for causing Katrina. And the threat of lawsuits is scaring away people from participating in the relief effort.

Financial Times (thanks to reader Carolynn):

Plenty of people have been blamed for the devastation of the US Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina - but most of them cannot be sued.

Suing the federal government, or the much-maligned Federal Emergency Management Agency, is very difficult. So now enterprising lawyers - many of whom hail from the south - are trying to hold insurance companies, oil companies and mortgage lenders responsible.

Post-disaster lawsuits are a fixture of modern American life: many were also filed in the aftermath of September 11, and many get nowhere. But the US Chamber of Commerce says post-Katrina suits are hampering the relief effort. It is pushing for legislation to protect companies involved in relief and reconstruction efforts from liability.

Big oil companies such as Shell, ChevronTexaco and Exxon Mobil are being sued on the grounds that their refining and production activities in the Gulf cause global warming, which in turn caused Katrina. Lawyers are trying to turn that lawsuit into a Mississippi-wide class action.

So what's the answer for this silliness?

In Texas, we have a Good Samaritan law to protect those dispensing disaster relief/aid from ridiculous lawsuits. Junior Texas Senator John Cornyn wants to extend this law to the hurricane disaster zones.

His bill is called the GIVE Act of 2005 (S.1747), also known as the Good Samaritan Liability Improvement and Volunteer Encouragement Act of 2005 (.pdf), which would eliminate some of the propensity of lawyers to circle the scene like vultures looking for get-rich-quick lawsuits.

Here's to seeing it pass. The prognosis is good, too, as it already has 10 cosponsors:

Republicans (9):
Sen. Allen, George [VA]
Sen. Brownback, Sam [KS]
Sen. Cochran, Thad [MS]
Sen. Coleman, Norm [MN]
Sen. Grassley, Chuck [IA]
Sen. Hutchison, Kay Bailey [TX]
Sen. Lott, Trent [MS]
Sen. Thune, John [SD]
Sen. Vitter, David [LA]

Democrats (1):
Sen. Landrieu, Mary L. [LA]

I wonder how many more Democrats, who draw so much of their cash and support from trial lawyers, will join Landrieu in supporting this imperative.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 October 2005 11:23 AM