You won't be seeing much from me on the horse-race aspects of the election, because I simply don't have the expertise. Fortunately, the Daily Kos is your one-stop shopping center for electoral analysis. In particular, follow the links from this post to read Tom Schaller's thoughtful coverage of John Edwards.
With Edwards' nomination, expect the national hysteria over "tort reform" to reach a fever pitch. Slacktivist explains why the Republican strategy of using John Edwards as a poster boy for tort reform will backfire, given the particulars of Edwards' biggest courtroom triumph.
The defining case in Edwards' legal career wrapped up that same year. In 1993, a five-year-old girl named Valerie Lakey had been playing in a Wake County, N.C., wading pool when she became caught in an uncovered drain so forcefully that the suction pulled out most of her intestines. She survived but for the rest of her life will need to be hooked up to feeding tubes for 12 hours each night.Never forget that the true aim of "tort reform" is to protect corporations that see no reason to modify their products after the first twelve children have their guts sucked out. Edwards' career as a trial lawyer is perfectly positioned to highlight the utter swindle that is the "tort reform" movement.
Edwards filed suit on the Lakeys' behalf against Sta-Rite Industries, the Wisconsin corporation that manufactured the drain. Attorneys describe his handling of the case as a virtuoso example of a trial layer bringing a negligent corporation to heel. Sta-Rite offered the Lakeys $100,000 to settle the case. Edwards passed.
Before trial, he discovered that 12 other children had suffered similar injuries from Sta-Rite drains. The company raised its offer to $1.25 million. Two weeks into the trial, they upped the figure to $8.5 million. Edwards declined the offer and asked for their insurance policy limit of $22.5 million. The day before the trial resumed from Christmas break, Sta-Rite countered with $17.5 million. Again, Edwards said no.
On January 10, 1997, lawyers from across the state packed the courtroom to hear Edwards' closing argument, "the most impressive legal performance I have ever seen," recalls Dayton. Three days later, the jury found Sta-Rite guilty and liable for $25 million in economic damages (by state law, punitive damages could have tripled that amount). The company immediately settled for $25 million, the largest verdict in state history. For their part, Edwards and Kirby earned the Association of Trial Lawyers of America's national award for public service.
As Slacktivist says, "It is true that Americans despise lawyers, but only until they need a good one on their side. And that's really the question Americans ask about any given lawyer: Whose side is he on? Prompting Americans to ask that question about John Edwards would not be a wise move for his opponents in this campaign."