Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Impossible Standard

Businesses produce millions of products. Some include ingredients found later to be hazardous, or found to be hazardous at lower levels than expected. When this happens, regulations are often put in place to ban the product, or modify the formula.

For example, Lead based paint was made illegal in 1978 due to fears that lead chips or dust could harm children’s intelligence. As a result, lead based paint has not been sold in close to 30 years.

However, taking a page out to the tobacco settlements, as well as California’s current attempt to litigate the automotive industry out of existence, Akron has succumbed to a major case of greed and is going to sue the former makers of lead based paint.

I don’t think that anyone really cares about fixing the buildings – after all, if you paint over the old paint, there isn’t much left in terms of dust or loose chips. What the city does care about is shaking down some corporations for a jackpot that it can split with the trial lawyers. No doubt the necessary quacksperts are being assembled even as we speak.

There’s always some product currently thought to be innocuous that may turn up to be a hazard as we become more sensitive and risk averse, and especially if we leave contingency fee awards in place.

If Columbus was serious about reigning in this kind of abuse, it could simply pass a law concerning the payments for outside legal counsel, limiting the fees to a flat rate per hour or per case. That would help to stem this kind of abuse.