Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, re-introduced legislation designed to stop preventable injuries, accidents and deaths that result from a lack of public access to crucial consumer information. The Sunshine in Litigation Act of 2011 would restore accountability to our judicial system by restricting court enforced secrecy on matters that affect public health and safety.
“Current rules governing federal court process make it too easy for defendants subject to lawsuits to hide information from third parties,” said Nadler. “Big corporations and manufacturers use various mechanisms to broadly shield vast amounts of information – some of which is vital to health and safety – from public scrutiny. Powerful litigants have used these tricks time and again to protect their bottom lines at the expense of the lives and well-being of innocent and unsuspecting people. My legislation would ensure that we balance the confidentiality needs of corporations with the necessity to protect people from dangerous or malfunctioning products.”
As a condition of settling product liability cases, businesses commonly require individuals to agree to secrecy provisions that prohibit them from disclosing public health and safety hazards uncovered during litigation. In the past decade alone, corporations that settled product liability cases have used secrecy to conceal injuries and deaths associated with common consumer products including automobile tires, magnetic toys, baby cribs, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. There are likely many more sealed cases and documents, and each one could be hiding another dangerous product or pattern of negligence. Sealing all litigation records without any regard to their impact on public health and safety endangers consumers and encourages corporate wrongdoing.
Since the 1990s, court systems in 41 states and 50 federal court districts have successfully taken steps to limit court-ordered secrecy. The Sunshine in Litigation Act is a natural progression of these measures, and would ensure consistency in federal courts, while facilitating access to life-saving information.
(YWN Desk – NYC)