Okay, let’s get one thing straight here. If you are an everyday American citizen (a commoner, let’s say), you have very little legal power in the United States. Oh, it might seem like you have power in theory. But most of us, should we be harmed by a company, are basically fucked. Sure you read about huge class action lawsuits with zillion dollar settlements, but those are the exception, not the rule.
So when people start whining about “frivolous lawsuits,” I get suspicious. Especially since so many use the story about the old lady suing McDonald’s because she spilled hot coffee on herself as the perfect example of someone trying to make a quick buck off of a company with deep pockets.
But not so fast. To proclaim Stella Liebeck’s suit against McDonald’s frivolous, is to proclaim that you’re an ignorant shit. I dare you to take a look at pictures of this woman’s injuries. She needed skin grafts and multiple surgeries. And while the corporate media would have you believe that she walked away with millions, she did not. Hundreds of thousands? Probably. Does that make her greedy? Fuck no. You know how much she asked for initially? $20,000. The difference between what insurance covered and what she had to pay out of pocket for her grievous injuries. McDonald’s had offered her a paltry $800. So she sued.
Liebeck’s case is a shining example of the civil justice system working. Unfortunately, it’s often used to support the lie of jackpot justice, the myth that the American people use the courtroom as a casino.
Businesses don’t like to be sued. Big surprise. Which is why, even though it is your constitutional right to seek damages for harm, it’s actually hard to sue a giant. And just about every company you do business with wants to keep it that way.
Which is why it’s no surprise that one of the arguments against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect LGBT people against job discrimination, is that it will result in a bunch of frivolous lawsuits.
Rep. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, made that argument in a letter sent to a constituent, according to ThinkProgress.
“[ENDA] might encourage frivolous lawsuits designed to win big legal fees, not to promote equality before the law,” Cotton writes. “To that end, it would increase the cost of doing business, partly because of the cost of these lawsuits.”
That’s right. Businesses would be harmed if they weren’t allowed to legally discriminate against LGBT employees, which they are perfectly allowed to do in 32 states (yes, Michigan). Since homos are already barred from taking their cases to the court, Cotton is basically saying that any discrimination case brought by an LGBT employee against a business is automatically “frivolous.”
Cotton’s argument is that businesses are more important than people, which is basically Republican Party gospel. Make no mistake, when he says “frivolous lawsuits,” he’s calling LGBT folks frivolous people. People who are not worthy of protections, who have always been denied their constitutional right to sue, who deserve to have both the office door and the courtroom door slammed in their faces.