Jewish World Review Sept. 28, 2001 / 11 Tishrei, 5762
Drs. Michael A.Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- CAN the legal leopards change their spots? In the adversity of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we hope so. We also hope this is a sincere gesture not a public relations tactic.
On Wednesday September 12 -- one day after the terrorist attack -- The American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA) announced that it had asked its members to declare a moratorium on World Trade Center and Pentagon related lawsuits. We stand and applaud the move. The ATLA did the right thing. The officers of ATLA understood that thousands of lawsuits would be expensive in terms of time, money, divisiveness and hinder the nation's response and recovery.
The ATLA statement signed by Leo V. Boyle, President of the ATLA in Washington, DC., reads in part, "For the first time in our history, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, in this time of national crisis, urges a moratorium on civil lawsuits that might arise out of these awful events."
Since the "moratorium" is not legally enforceable the ATLA might also impose censure, fines or expulsion for members who violate this moratorium. The ATLA has 60,000 members out of a total number of 800,000 attorneys in this country. The ATLA should encourage the other 750,00 lawyers to make this same pledge.
We especially applaud their Pro Bono Program. Boyle announced that the ATLA will organize the efforts of members to volunteer their services pro bono on behalf of victims seeking compensation from the Victims' Compensation Fund. Every member of ATLA's Executive Committee has volunteered to be pro bono counsel.
The additional big legal question that might eventually result in years of litigation is: Was this an act of terrorism vis-a-vis, an accident or an act of war? If an act of war, then some insurance companies may claim they are off the hook as most contracts have an exclusion for acts of war. The ATLA should clarify its position and promise to litigate this issue as well through its Pro Bono Program. In the gut twisting high profile case of bond brokers Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 700 employees, the insurers have already told Cantor's CEO that the insurance company would pay. We praise them for taking an immediate stand.
The members of ATLA, enriched by their legal successes -- and some legal terrorist tactics of their own -- over the last few decades, are in an admirable position to help further by making a large donation to the Victims' Compensation Fund. Other organizations and companies have donated generously. For example, Daimler Chrysler executives donated $10 million to aid children who lost parents. The on-line company eBay announced it will raise and contribute $100 million. The major networks donated several hours of prime time television for a fundraising telethon that raised approximately $200 million. Microsoft has contributed $10 million, Coca-Cola $6 million, Starbucks $1 million, UPS $4 million, and IBM Corporation $5 million. During the first eight days, the United Way of America collected $43 million, The Salvation Army $20 million and the American Red Cross $129 million.
We totally agree with the ATLA that one-hundred percent of this money should be used to help the survivors and families and to help those who were widowed or orphaned by the destruction.
New Yorkers rushed to donate 5,000 units of blood within 24 hours -- some waiting in line for eight hours. In Washington, DC, so many blood donors stepped forward that the Red Cross had to temporarily turn them away. The ATLA might ask its members and other Americans to donate blood to ease the shortage which will develop in 3-6 weeks because of the limited lifespan of red blood cells.
We also challenge the American Medical Association (AMA) executives, officers and board of directors to make similar magnanimous gestures and donations. In New York and Washington, D.C., nurses, technicians, and emergency medical personnel have already played a heroic role. Perhaps the HMOs and managed care companies could provide gratis medical care for those survivors who are uninsured.
This is a rare opportunity for the legal and medical professions to cast aside old hostilities and work together in helping this country in our war against terrorism. We hope this moratorium -- called by the ATLA on lawsuits -- is a treat rather than a trick. Having said this, if the trial lawyers want to sue, subpoena and serve legal papers on the terrorists we would not object.
We thank the officers, board and members of the ATLA for their efforts.
It's nice to see them be a help to the nation rather than a
09/21/01: Civil defense again a civic duty