Thirteen … that’s how many deaths could have been prevented in the latest instance of corporate officers knowingly concealing a serious product defect through secrecy agreements. Through secrecy agreements in litigation, corporations and manufacturers hide their wrongdoing and avoid responsibility.
Consider recent events:
- General Motors vehicle ignition defect has been linked to at least 13 deaths and many more injuries and went unreported to authorities for more than a dozen years.
- Portable, foldable lunch tables have caused a total of 9 deaths by tipping over on children. The CPSC issued a warning about cafeteria tables, identifying six manufacturers. Through court secrecy, however, these tables were allowed to remain on the market and are currently used in many school districts.
- Corporate officers knowingly failed to inform regulators about an environmental hazard in West Virginia. Executives from Freedom Industries knew that a toxic chemical was leaking into the water supply, endangering 300,000 West Virginians, but failed to warn authorities for 11 days.
- Simplicity for Children executives knew and failed to disclose information about defective cribs that led to the deaths of 11 infants and numerous injuries.
When Marla Felcher began investigating children’s product safety after Danny Keysar’s death, she was shocked to find how much information about unsafe products was hidden away in sealed court documents.
The Sunshine in Litigation Act – H.R. 4361 – would prevent unnecessary injuries and death by shedding light on dangerous products. Over 20 states have taken steps to limit court secrecy – this litigation would ensure that federal courts also consider public health and safety matters prior to approving secret settlements. The Sunshine in Litigation Act would: 1) make the public aware of vital lifesaving information; 2) help prevent injuries from dangerous products and decrease litigation; and 3) make courts more efficient while protecting the public.
The instances of this injustice are too plentiful and horrifying to ignore. We must protect our consumers and offer courts options for mandating disclosure. Support for court secrecy reform, like the Sunshine in Litigation Act, is necessary. Please contact your U.S. Representative urging them to support this legislation.