New Tort Museum Celebrates Victories of Law Over Corporate Power

Posted Sept. 30, 2015

MP3 An excerpt of a talk by citizen activist, author and four-time independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, delivered at the convocation of the new American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, CT on Sept. 26, 2015

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Aspiring public interest lawyer Ralph Nader published his first book titled, "Unsafe at Any Speed," in 1965. The book accused America's giant automobile manufacturers of producing dangerous vehicles that could be made more safe if the company's executives hadn't resisted the installation of safety equipment, such as seat belts and padded dashboards. The book is best known for a chapter on the Chevrolet Corvair's flawed design – known to the manufacturer – which made it prone to rear wheel tuck-under crashes. Nader's testimony on unsafe cars before a Senate committee ushered in new safety laws in 1966. General Motors was later forced to apologize to Nader after it was revealed that the company had hired private investigators to tap his phone and attempted to entrap him in illicit relationships in order to discredit him as a public figure.

Nader would go on to become the nation’s pre-eminent consumer advocate who was responsible for at least eight major federal consumer protection laws, the establishment of federal regulatory agencies and the recall of millions of defective cars. Through the years, Nader has been instrumental in building a national network of nonprofit citizens groups, including state-based public interest research groups, the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen.

Throughout his career, Ralph Nader has used the courts and tort law, which is the law of personal injury, to pursue justice and hold the powerful to account. Now after years of fundraising and planning, Nader has opened the new American Museum of Tort Law in his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut, which features many exhibits on historic lawsuits, including those against the tobacco and asbestos industries, the Ford Pinto’s exploding fuel tanks and dozens more. In this excerpt of a speech made at the convocation of the museum on Sept. 26, Nader talks about the importance of tort law and the conservative movement attempting to erode consumer’s access to the courts.

For more information, visit the American Museum of Tort Law at tortmuseum.org; Rlaph Nader's website nader.org; Ralph Nader's Radio Show ralphnaderradiohour.com.

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