The BP Settlement: How the Lawyers See Their Role


To the Editor:


Re “Lawyers’ Business Model,” by Joe Nocera (column, July 30)


When corporations act irresponsibly by producing unsafe products, polluting our environment or swindling their employees and shareholders, often the only place for Americans to hold them accountable is in our courts. The civil justice system provides a key incentive for corporations to prioritize safety from the start.


In yet another column attacking trial lawyers in order to defend BP, Joe Nocera disregards the important role that the civil justice system plays in our society.


As the president of the American Association for Justice, I know firsthand how hard our members are working to make sure that Americans can get justice in the courtroom, even when it means taking on the most powerful interests. I also know from my own clients how essential it is to have a strong civil justice system that enables Americans to hold wrongdoers accountable.


When businesses in the Gulf sought to hold BP accountable for the devastating effects of the oil spill, BP’s team of corporate lawyers co-authored, agreed to and sought court approval of the very settlement that Mr. Nocera finds offensive. BP may have underestimated the financial damage it caused, but trial lawyers are not to blame for that. That blame still remains with BP.


Instead of pitying BP and corporations like it, let’s focus on fixing the root of the problem: the dangerous products, negligence and corporate wrongdoings that harm Americans.