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Personal Injury Attorneys Eye Latest Prize: Hurricane Damage

| Tort Reform & Legal Climate

Personal injury attorneys seldom miss an opportunity to make a buck. From workers’ compensation reform to nuisance lawsuits to asbestos bankruptcy trusts, North Carolina knows well the lengths personal injury attorneys will go to line their pockets. Now Floridians are learning similar lessons, as personal injury attorneys set their sights on their next conquest – capitalizing on hurricane damage.

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial took Florida’s “storm chasing” personal injury attorneys to task for their attempts to “exploit a power outage caused by Hurricane Irma.” Two Miami-based law firms filed a class action lawsuit against Florida Power & Light, seeking between $2 billion and $3 billion in damages. As basis for their suits, the firms are accusing the power company of failing to adequately maintain its infrastructure, subsequently causing a power outage that affected more than 4 million residents across the state. While acknowledging the nuisance of power outages, the editorial goes on to point out how swiftly power was restored in contrast to past disasters and the dense foliage managed by the city that the utility warned could be dangerous. It also notes a potential conflict of interest generated by a city commissioner employed by one of the law firms, who may “have motivations other than civic virtue for deflecting blame to the utility.”

As the editorial noted, “trial lawyers never let a disaster go to waste.” As no stranger to hurricanes and the damage they can leave behind, North Carolina could easily see personal injury attorneys try the same tactics here. North Carolina business already has a target on its back and as personal injury attorneys turn to the courts to wage their battles, we’re committed to protecting business’ interests. It is for that reason, we formed the NC Chamber Legal Institute, which will focus on civil liability, tort reform and improved corporate governance. This is even more important now, following the recent decline in North Carolina’s legal climate. North Carolina must keep bad acting personal injury attorneys from manipulating our legal system for their personal gain, which is why we won’t stop fighting for reforms that foster greater predictability and transparency.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber