What About Frivolous Defenses?

Many advocates of “tort reform”, whose main motivation may well be to weaken trial lawyers’ political campaign donation clout, have a tendency to spotlight the most frivolous of lawsuits. Finding those exceptions to the rules of civil redress of grievances, and holding them up to ridicule, is all fine and well until someone points out that corporate defense attorneys are often the most monstrous people ever to grace our American courtrooms.

Hotel of Nightmares

The Marriott hotel dynasty, for instance, reacted quite badly to a premises liability claim that was filed by a woman who was raped at gunpoint (in front of her children) in the parking lot of a Marriott hotel in Stamford, Connecticut. Her assailant approached her while she was getting into her vehicle, sexually assaulting her and threatening to do the same thing to her children.

Blaming the Victim, Again

The perpetrator is behind bars now, fortunately, but the victim sought damages against Marriott for having improperly trained employees and for failing to adequately monitor their property despite the knowledge that several such assault had previously been committed in the area of the hotel. What did Marriott’s lawyers present in defense? They claimed that the woman had failed to protect herself and her kids, that she wasn’t aware enough of what was going on around her.

Women’s groups and other rape-victim supporters voiced their displeasure at this “blame-the-victim” defense, usually the bailiwick of a criminal laywer defending an accused rapist, and set about organizing a boycott. Once the bean-counters at Marriott realized that the boycott would cost them even more than either defending against or settling the woman’s lawsuit, they withdrew their defense. Smart money… Too bad it only showed up after making such a ridiculous decision in the first place.

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