WASHINGTON, DC—A Chester, New Jersey, family sued after an adult bicyclist hit their eleven year old daughter is telling the story of their legal ordeal on www.FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org. The video story of Jon, Janet, and, Lauren Ellis is part of a nationwide public awareness campaign by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) designed to show that abusive lawsuits affect real people in very real ways.
“Abusive lawsuits are not victimless,” said ILR President Lisa Rickard. “Many people have the perception that lawsuits are primarily the concern of faceless, ‘deep-pocket’ corporations. Yet small businesses and regular families like the Ellis’ are just as likely to be the target of costly, frivolous suits.”
In 2003, Lauren was rollerblading on the street outside her home when she was struck from behind by an adult neighbor on a bicycle. The bicyclist then sued Lauren and her parents, dragging them through four years of legal proceedings. “I think it’s ridiculous that something like this could get all the way to court,” Lauren said. After three days of trial, the jury took just fifteen minutes to decide Lauren had not been negligent.
In addition to the Ellis’ story, the website features a collection of video stories of lawsuit abuse victims, such as a Maryland pool supply owner who was sued for $750,000 when a wild goose nesting near his store startled a passerby, causing her to fall. The campaign, supported by a nationwide television, radio, and online advertising effort, will run through early 2009.
“The people featured in this campaign all suffered real emotional and financial pain,” said Rickard. “By giving voices to their stories, we hope that Americans will understand that our lawsuit-happy culture is taking a toll on their friends, neighbors, and local businesses.”
A 2008 election-night poll found that 83 percent of overall voters believe the number of frivolous lawsuits is a serious problem, with strong majorities agreeing across the political spectrum.
ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.