WASHINGTON, DC—A Waynesville, North Carolina, youth baseball coach sued by the parents of one of his players is telling the story of his legal ordeal on www.FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org. Mike Meissner’s video story 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 individuals like Mike Meissner are also victims of these abusive suits.”
Meissner coached a Waynesville baseball team for sixteen years. During a practice session in the spring of 1999, one of his outfielders lost a pop fly in the sun and was hit by the ball. The player’s family then sued Meissner and the league. “It was very, very stressful—the lawsuit itself and waiting for the lawsuit to come to trial,” said Meissner. “The whole thing really didn’t make a lot of sense.” Almost six years of legal proceedings later, the courts decided neither the coach nor the league had been negligent.
In addition to Meissner’s 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.