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Attorney to Tell Wisconsin Trial Lawyers: “We Can’t Rely on Government Watchdogs”

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PHOTO: Attorney Lance Cooper, who successfully took on General Motors in the product liability case involving faulty ignition switches, says the civil-justice system is a critical element in obtaining justice because often government watchdog agencies aren't doing their job. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Association for Justice.
PHOTO: Attorney Lance Cooper, who successfully took on General Motors in the product liability case involving faulty ignition switches, says the civil-justice system is a critical element in obtaining justice because often government watchdog agencies aren't doing their job. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Association for Justice.
December 3, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - Don't look for the government to protect us when faulty products threaten lives. That's the message trial lawyers gathering in Milwaukee this week will hear from trial lawyer Lance Cooper of Atlanta.

Although government watchdog agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are staffed with well-intentioned and well-qualified people, Cooper said, they're usually underfunded and more often than not at the mercy of the manufacturers.

Cooper, who successfully sued General Motors on behalf of a client who was killed because of a faulty ignition switch, said the civil jury system is critical to obtaining justice.

"Just over the past 3 or 4 years with the Toyota sudden-acceleration problem, of course the GM ignition switch problem, and now the Takata air bag problem," he said, "these are all problems that were reported to the federal government but it took civil litigation to bring those cases and those problems to the forefront."

Trial lawyers often are perceived as greedy ambulance-chasers, Cooper said, but too often litigation has been more effective than government regulatory agencies at reforming shoddy business practices. According to Cooper, when juries speak, corporate America listens.

Cooper will speak in Milwaukee on Friday to a gathering of trial lawyers at a Wisconsin Association for Justice meeting about the importance of having a strong civil-justice system.

"The founding fathers understood that - as far as the necessity of a right to trial by jury, because they understood that the government at times either would overstep its bounds or would not do enough to protect its citizens," he said. "Without a robust civil justice system, the system just wouldn't work."

Eighteen-year-old Natasha Weigel of the village of Hammond in St. Croix County was killed in a 2006 crash involving a General Motors car with a faulty ignition switch. Cooper did not represent her family in their case against GM, but did represent survivors of another young woman who was killed in a similar crash.

"We handled this like we handle any other product liability case," Cooper said. "The benefits of our system, and in particular the responsibility that we as trial lawyers have in representing consumers, is often times it's not only the individual case; the tort system is to benefit society as a whole."

Madison, WI - An attorney who successfully sued General Motors on behalf of the family of a client who was one of several people killed because of cars with a faulty ignition switch will tell lawyers gathering in Milwaukee this week (Friday) that government watchdog agencies like the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration can't be relied on to protect consumers. Comments Lance Cooper, trial lawyer, Atlanta. Image available: photo of Cooper

Don't look for the government to protect us when faulty products threaten lives. That's the message trial lawyers gathering in Milwaukee this week will hear from trial lawyer Lance Cooper of Atlanta. He says although government watchdog agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are staffed with well-intentioned and well-qualified people, they're usually underfunded and more often than not at the mercy of the manufacturers. Cooper successfully sued General Motors on behalf of a client who was killed because of a faulty ignition switch. He says the civil jury system is critical to obtaining justice.

"Just over the past 3 or 4 years with the Toyota sudden acceleration problem, of course the GM ignition switch problem, and now the Takata air bag problem - these are all problems that were reported to the federal government but it took civil litigation to bring those cases and those problems to the forefront."

Cooper says trial lawyers are often perceived as greedy ambulance-chasers but, he says, too often litigation has been more effective than government regulatory agencies at reforming shoddy business practices. According to Cooper, when juries speak, corporate America listens.

Cooper will speak in Milwaukee Friday to a gathering of trial lawyers at a Wisconsin Association for Justice meeting about the importance of having a strong civil justice system.

"The founding fathers understood that - as far as the necessity of a right to trial by jury, because they understood that the government at times either would overstep its bounds or would not do enough to protect its citizens. Without a robust civil justice system, the system just wouldn't work."

An 18-year-old Wisconsin woman, Natasha Weigel (WY-gul) of the village of Hammond in St. Croix (croy) County, was killed in a 2006 crash involving a GM car with a faulty ignition switch. Cooper did not represent her family in their case against GM, but did represent survivors of another young woman who was killed in a similar crash.

"We handled this like we handle any other product liability case. The benefits of our system, and in particular the responsibility that we as trial lawyers have in representing consumers, is often times it's not only the individual case - the tort system is to benefit society as a whole."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI