Posted on July 31, 2008 · Posted in Brain Injury

I am a trial lawyer. I am proud of what I do. I believe that our civil justice system, what we lawyers call the Tort system, is the best way to deter wrongful conduct and to compensate those who are injured by this wrongful conduct. With the approaching Beijing Olympics, the eyes of the world are on China, a country with a very different concept of justice. The below AP story illustrates the distinction of a man being sentenced to death for causing a car wreck which killed an 8-year-old girl.

I was thinking about the contrast between the American system of justice and the Chinese yesterday, while listening to an OnPoint podcast about whether the approaching Olympics have moved China closer to the human rights goals that were promised when China was awarded the 2008 Olympics. The point that was made was that the mothers of the school children killed in the Sichuan earthquake were demanding justice against those who were responsible for the poorly constructed schools. Of course my American lawyer mind, hearing “justice” thought of compensation, with the ultimate deterrent that comes from the fear of money compensation. Reading the story below, perhaps I got it wrong. Maybe what they were seeking was another execution.

I believe our way is better. Not only is it not so barbaric, but it is more likely to deter. Chopping off the head of some corporate wrongdoer, is not going to change the corporate culture of greed. Only punishing a corporation where it hurts, in the pocket book is going to truly deter. And after the last 8 years of laissez faire from the Bush Administration, only the trial lawyers are likely to bring true deterrence to a profit system running amuck. The heparin disaster, of which I have blogged and written so much, is the perfect example.

The drug companies, such as Baxter, taking advantage of the FDA’s blind eye attitude, saw the opportunity to make quick profits from lower raw material costs in China, without any legitimate effort to ensure the purity of their products. The FDA didn’t even try to stop the greed. Now Baxter must face the trial lawyers in American style justice.  Unfortunately, hundreds of people died in the catastrophe.

An eye for an eye, or a system of private enforcement with dedicated and motivated civic servants (yes, we trial lawyers) out to compensate the victims of greed, with the ultimate result a safer society?

Attorney Gordon Johnson
©Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr. 2008

Date: 7/31/2008 8:13 AM

BC-AS–China-Dragging Death/156

BEIJING (AP) _ A court in central sentenced an unlicensed driver to death Thursday for running over an 8-year-old girl and dragging her under his car for 320 feet (100 meters), state media reported.

The victim, Wen Mengtian, died from head injuries following the Jan. 26 incident, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The court in the city of Chongqing ruled that Peng Jiang had committed murder by continuing to drive on after jumping the curb and knocking down Wen and another woman, Xinhua reported.

Two other men who were in the car with Peng and allegedly urged him to keep driving after the incident were given sentences of seven years each, the report said.

Xinhua said the three men fled the scene and later had the car wrecked.

Death sentences in China face automatic review by the Supreme Court and are usually carried out by firing squad.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447