Sunday, February 06, 2005

Blunt Slams Citizens, Supports Companies that Kill Missourians

On Thursday, Matt Blunt saw fit to criticize Missourians who sat on a jury, listened to evidence, and decided that a fantastically profitable company should be punished a fraction of its net worth for killing a Missourian. Without hearing a word of the evidence brought to the trial, Matt Blunt decided that a twenty million dollar punitive damages award against a tobacco company "is an 'egregious' example of a court system in need of reform."

There are so many things wrong with Blunt's position that I need to address them separately.

1. The Blunt family is owned by Big Tobacco. Little Brother Andy Blunt gets paid big money to lobby for tobacco companies. His new step-mom is also in the family business of lobbying for tobacco companies. His Dad is so much in the pocket of Big Tobacco that he embarrassed even the shameless Republicans in Congress by trying to sneak a provision benefiting Big Tobacco into the Homeland Security Bill. In Blunt's world, the central "family value" is supporting big Tobacco. (By the way, why didn't the so-called "liberal press" even mention these ties to Big Tobacco in their coverage?)

2. Blunt does not know the evidence. A jury reaches its verdict based upon the evidence put before it. Matt Blunt did not hear the evidence that the jury heard. He did not read the documents put before it, demonstrating that Brown & Williamson knew that the product it was selling would addict Ms. Smith and subject her to a slow, painful death. He did not see the evidence that Brown & Williamson actively suppressed that information during the time that Ms. Smith was getting hooked. He did not see the evidence about how many millions upon millions of dollars Brown & Williamson was able to "earn" by deceiving Ms. Smith and others about the health effects of their product. All Blunt knows is that the industry that bankrolls his family just got brought to justice in Kansas City.

3. The case isn't over. Post-trial motions have not been heard. The appellate courts have not looked at the case. Even if the verdict does become final, half the money will be diverted to a Tort Victims Compensation Fund. People who confuse a jury verdict with an ultimate result do not understand our court system.

4. Why does Matt Blunt think juries are only wrong when they punish corporations? Republicans are tremendous supporters of the jury system when it involves putting black teenagers to death. They have attacked appellate judges that dare to look at trial error in cases where lives, instead of money, are at stake. They are working hard to restrict Missouri citizens serving on juries from imposing money damages on corporations, but they are happy to allow jurors to send the poor and undereducated to the gas chamber when they are accused of hurting one person, rather than millions.

Matt Blunt isn't just wrong this time, he is an ignorant hypocrite blinded by the blood money Big Tobacco has paid to his avaricious clan. Matt Blunt did not have a negative word to say when Ms. Smith died of heart disease brought on by the Big Tobacco corporations that bankroll his family. He didn't attend her funeral. He didn't mourn her passing. But he stands ready to call it "egregious" when his corporate pals are called to account for her death.

Ms. Smith was a Missouri citizen. Her fellow citizens sat on a jury and reached a verdict based on the evidence they heard. Matt Blunt's criticism demonstrates that he values Big Tobacco more than the citizens he mocks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just a note to express my appreciation for this post and to make a slight clarification for everyone in blogville. First, thanks for pointing out the financial connection between Blunt and Big Tobacco. Second, don't forget that there are growing numbers of Republicans who actually believe in personal responsibility for corporations as well as individuals and who are sickened by the nonsense being spouted in the name of tort reform.

Could our tort system be improved? Sure it could. But what the Missouri Republicans are trying to do is to cut off the recourse regular folks have when they are injured due to the negligence or intentional misconduct of corporations and other segments of the population who already have more power and greater access to the courts. Its a disgrace to the party of Abraham Lincoln.

I'd love to see us tweak the system to make litigation more efficient and more just. I don't want to see a system that eliminates corporate accountability.


2/07/2005 5:31 PM  

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