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John Stossel: Dishonest and Hypocritical in Criticizing Personal Injury Lawyers and Tort Law

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On his June 16, 2001, Fox News show, humbly titled Stossel Show, John Stossel mocked product warning labels, consumer advocates, personal injury lawyers and the civil justice system itself. View the show touting tort reform at your risk, as it is sure to raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

If you do click on the link in the paragraph above, keep in mind that most of what Stossel reports and editorializes here and pretty much everywhere else is, at most, half true. The media accountability nonprofit Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, or FAIR, dedicates two pages of its website to debunking claims made by Stossel. Links from FAIR’s list of untrue and harmful statements made by Stossel — which he claims to make because he "believe[s] that markets are magical and the best protectors of the consumer. It is my job to explain the beauties of the free market." — point to junk science concerning the nutritive value and lack of safety for organic foods, the bizarre claim that workers need less protection of their health and lives in factories, and Stossel’s willingness to cherry-pick unattributed quotes to support his ideological viewpoint.

I’m no news watchdog, but even I have no problem poking so many holes in a Stossel article like "Parasitic Tort Lawyers" that the piece couldn’t hold a single truth any more than a colander can hold water.

Here are just three of the false-to-ludicrous arguments presented by Stossel, followed by the reality of the situation:

Stossel’s irresponsible reporting and disregard for facts has cost him and his employers money and diminished both parties’ reputations. For instance, in April 2011, ABC settled a defamation lawsuit with a Los Angles, California (CA)-based minister who Stossel misrepresented on 20/20 and Good Morning America as taking cash from congregants to support a lavish millionaire’s lifestyle. The portrayal was completely false, and the network published a retraction of the story along with an apology to the defamed preacher.

And then there’s this incident from Stossel’s personal past:

Stossel later retained the services of a personal injury attorney and sued the wrestler, David "Dr. D" Schultz and the World Wrestling Federation, for $2 million. The case ended with Schultz and the WWF paying Stossel $425,000 for really no injury at all, just a well-deserved comeuppance.

Why would Stossel consider a weak tort good for himself if he considers strong torts bad for everyone else. Charging Stossel with hypocrisy doesn’t quite cover the gap between what the man has said and what he has done. At the same time, I need to stop short of calling Stossel a liar interested only in drawing viewers and readers rather than reporting and commentating honestly. I don’t want him hiring one of my VA tort lawyer colleagues and suing me.

EJL

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.