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Lawsuits an avenue for public justice, corporate abuse

Marc Becker
The Monitor
March 2, 2005

Home Depot has been labeled “the most dangerous store in America.”

Emphasizing profit over safety, the world’s largest home improvement retailer and the second-largest retailer in the United States stacks shelves high with lumber and heavy merchandise creating canyons of death and injury in their stores.

In 1999, a 75-pound box of wood fell 20 feet to kill 79-year-old Mary Penturff. Six months later, 2,000 pounds of kitchen countertops fell from a forklift and crushed 3-year-old Janessa Horner. Two months later, a ton of falling landscaping timbers killed 41-year-old Jerry Mead.

Home Depot refuses to release a comprehensive list of their customers who have been killed or injured, or to discuss the topic. CEO Bob Nardelli prefers to settle with the families than to change the way he operates his stores. Apparently the corporate giant receives about 185 injury claims per week.

Nardelli is one of the primary supporters of George Bush’s efforts to limit the rights of consumers to bring lawsuits against corporations. He considers these lawsuits to be frivolous, but such suits are one of few avenues that the public has to force corporations to respect people’s lives, property, and happiness. Nardelli also opposes federal regulations that would force corporations to operate in ways that would protect the public interest.

Public Citizen reports that corporations file four times as many lawsuits as do individuals, and they are more likely to be penalized by judges for pursuing frivolous litigation. The U.S. is greatly in need of tort reform to limit the ability of corporations to sue individuals, and to facilitate the ability of the public to bring class-action lawsuits against corporations.

Of Home Depot’s $716,270 donations to political parties in 2004, 94 percent went to the Republicans. Among local corporate retailers, they are only surpassed by Wal-Mart who donated 80 percent of their $2,005,516 political contributions to the GOP.

Until federal regulations or costly lawsuits become more expensive than safety measures, Home Depot will not be a safe place to shop. Friends don’t let friends shop Republican.

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Last fall I wrote a letter to the editor in The Monitor complaining that the corporately owned Barnes & Noble University Bookstore regularly made a mess of book orders for my classes. I urged them to contact me regarding their current fiasco, but I never heard from them. The book in question finally arrived at the end of the semester, well after we needed it for class. Unfortunately, despite their gross incompetence, the Board of Governors has renewed their contract for next year.

Of Barnes & Noble’s $103,850 donations to political parties in 2004, 98 percent went to the Democrats.

U-Haul threatened to sue Becker when he publicly complained on a website that their severely over-booked reservation system left him homeless with all of his belongings out on the curb. Becker has never sued anyone.

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