Wednesday, July 9, 2008

World Turned Upside Down

The AP is reporting today that the manufacturers of the travel trailers used by FEMA after hurricane Katrina are blaming the toxic levels of formaldehyde on the lack of government regulation. These claims are being backed and echoed by Republican members of Congress during the hearings being conducted by the House Oversight committee. To repeat, that's Republicans and manufacturers complaining about too little business regulation. It's no wonder students have a hard time sorting out legal principles and public policy when ideology gives way to expediency.

How is it that the manufacturers are not able to determine a safe level of formaldehyde on their own? In our legal scheme, a robust civil justice system should cause the manufacturers to be wary of civil lawsuits by people injured by their product. This should cause them to be cautious in their manufacturing, placing a premium on safety over profit. I think the problem is that our civil justice system is not sufficiently potent enough to do the job. We should be considering meaningful tort reform that makes it easier to file and prosecute lawsuits against manufacturers of unsafe products. Perhaps tort reform that mandates punitive damages would cause manufacturers to be more careful in their production.