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Annual AAJ Report Highlights Power of Civil Justice System in Holding Corporations Accountable

By: Allan M. Siegel

As a law firm focused on protecting the rights of clients who have been injured and wronged by others, our team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. works exclusively within the civil justice system. Over the years, we’ve proven how civil law is invaluably important to providing average, everyday individuals with a platform to voice their stories and take on even the most powerful corporate entities.

From accidents caused by negligent trucking companies, businesses, and manufacturers that put profits over people to civil wrongs perpetrated by corporations and institutions in positions of power, matters handled within the civil justice system seek accountability on the part of at-fault defendants – as well as recompense for the victims they’ve harmed.

Worst Corporate Conduct of 2018

While we know civil lawsuits are powerful tools when it comes to holding corporate and institutional wrongdoers accountable, not everyone is aware of how truly important these cases can be – not only for victims and families affected, but also for the public at large. That’s precisely why the American Association for Justice (AAJ) publishes its annual report on the Worst Corporate Conduct.

The report provides an in-depth examination of the past year’s most glaring examples of corporate wrongdoing, as well as how the civil justice system allows Americans to hold them accountable and change the way they do business. Below, we detail the top corporations included in the AAJ’s Worst Corporate Conduct of 2018:

  • General Motors / Takata –Japanese auto part manufacturer Takata became infamous in recent years after millions of its defective airbags were linked to numerous injuries and deaths. Though news about the scandal subsided from the spotlight in 2018, the company returns to the list of Worst Corporate Conduct following its 2017 appearance because millions of Americans still face risks associated with dangerous air bags that haven’t been replaced. As the injury and death toll continues to rise, General Motors earned itself infamy of its own by refusing to recall Takata-equipped vehicles. The fourth-largest auto manufacturer in the world even went as far as filing petitions to get out of the recall, claiming the defective airbags aren’t likely to pose unreasonable safety risks. The real reason, as it often is for major corporations, was money. GM admitted to the SEC that it would save around $1 billion if it could avoid repairs.
  • State Farm – Our legal team at CSCS handles many cases in which we seek compensation from individuals or entities insured by State Farm. The same system we use as leverage for the benefit of our clients was also able to compel State Farm into paying $250 million in September to settle claims that it secretly pulled strings in an effort to install a hand-picked candidate on the Illinois Supreme Court. State Farm was also alleged to have lied about the conspiracy in order to prevent the justice’s recusal from a billion-dollar appeals case it was facing. The newly-elected justice ultimately cast the deciding vote to vacate the appeal.
  • Nestlé – In 2018, a lawsuit alleging Nestlé perpetuated child slavery at cocoa farms in West Africa was reinstated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Though it may be the largest food and beverage corporation in the world, its labor practices have made also made it one of the most boycotted. That’s due in large part to its chocolate, seafood, and coffee supply chains being supported by the use of forced labor, as well as the multinational company’s refusal to acknowledge its failures and correct such practices.
  • USA Gymnastics / Michigan State University – The scandal surrounding Larry Nassar earned USA Gymnastics, which employed Nassar as its official doctor, and Michigan State University, where he was also a physician, a spot on this year’s Worst Corporate Conduct report. Over the course of decades, Nassar sexually assaulted hundreds of girls and young women. Although USA Gymnastics and MSU were made aware of Nassar’s crimes, they allowed the sexual abuse to continue. High-ranking officials at both institutions also engaged in willful cover-ups to conceal complaints and protect their image at the expense of new victims. In May, MSU reached a $500 million settlement with hundreds of victims. A case is currently pending against USA Gymnastics, which recently filed for bankruptcy. Many high-ranking figures at the two institutions have also resigned, been forced to quit, and even charged with crimes.

The AAJ also named other corporations in its annual list, including:

  • Navient – A for-profit corporation that made billions by taking advantage of student loan borrowers, and which is facing pending lawsuits from several states, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.
  • BP, ExxonMobile, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell – The world’s largest publicly traded oil companies were recently sued by numerous cities and counties across the country for concealing what they knew about the impact of their operations on the environment.
  • Theranos – A biotech company which promised more accessible and affordable blood-testing services, and which is now defunct after it was ousted as a fraud, its founder charged with federal crimes, and it was forces to settle civil claims with investors and the SEC.

Civil Law: Justice & Accountability

The AAJ’s Worst Corporate Conduct of 2018, which you can read here, is an excellent account of the most egregious wrongs committed by some of the world’s most powerful corporations. It also discusses how corporate entities manage backlash, such as when they work to perpetuate the myth of the frivolous lawsuit, or make public apologies. While public apologies in particular are becoming a standard part of these corporations’ playbooks, the report shows how they have little value when it comes to meaningful change. Instead, they serve as a reminder that the only real way to hold these corporate entities accountable when they cause harm is through the civil justice system.

Time and time again, corporations and institutions have shown they can’t be expected to do what’s right unless they are compelled to do so. Our attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. know that from first-hand experience. It’s why we value the role we play in the fight for justice and accountability, both for our clients and for the many others we may prevent from becoming victims in the future.

Our firm is passionate about what we do, and is readily available help injured and wronged victims throughout the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia learn more about their rights and options when pursuing civil claims. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to speak with a member of our team.