This site deals only with the corporate corruption of science, and makes no inference about the motives or activities of individuals involved.
There are many reasons why individuals become embroiled in corporate corruption activities - from political zealotry to over-enthusiastic activism; from gullibility to greed.
Please read the OVERVIEW carefully, and make up your own mind.
— The subject of a tort-reform urban myth generated by ATRA, and promoted by President Reagan. —
Charles Bigbee was the unfortunate sufferer of an urban myth about excessive personal damages which had been created by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA). ATRA had just been established by an ex-White House aide, James Coyne to help the tobacco, pharamacy, and chemical industries escape the consequences of their inaction on health and safety concerns.
Coyne managed to get President Reagan to tell the Bigbee urban myth as an anecdote — and then both Reagan and ATRA promoted it as an example of litigation gone mad. This was one of the more callous actions of the President of the United States, and one that he repeated a number of times despite having many opportunities to correct the record,
Nor was it the only time Reagan chose to promote tort-reform myths as anecdotes and legal curiousities, at the expense of individuals who had already been injured physically.
Some key documents
1986: A few months after James Coyne left public service [as White House personal advisor to the President] and founded the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) in early 1986, the President [Reagan] gave his ex-employee another boost by addressing ATRA in a speech at the US Chamber of Commerce building. The president offered an anecdote:
In California, a man was using a public telephone booth to place a call. An alleged drunk driver careened down the street, lost control of her car, and crashed into the phone booth.
Now, it's no surprise that the injured man sued. But you might be startled to hear whom he sued: the telephone company and associated firms.
The man in the phone booth was Charles Bigbee. On the night of the crash in 1974, Bigbee, 33, was a custodian for the City of Los Angeles, who had just finished work.
Because the door of the booth jammed, Bigbee was forced to watch helplessly as the swerving car bore down on him. The impact shattered one of his legs and required the other to be amputated above the knee.
The booth was 12 feet from the street and on the parking lot of a liquor store. An investigation determined it had been hit by a car and destroyed at least once before 15 months prior. Nevertheless, the phone company installed another booth in the same location without erecting an adequate protective device, such as a guardrail.
The driver was modestly insured and Bigbee did collect from her company, though not nearly enough to cover his medical expenses. Although witnesses noticed the odor of alcohol on her, she was never prosecuted for drunk driving because hospital personnel failed to take a blood test. Unable to work, Bigbee slipped into poverty.
"He lost his house and car," recalls his attorney, Thomas Cacciatore. "He went from a guy with a little piece of the rock to a man with one leg fighting off bill collectors."
Bigbee did sue the telephone company and the firms that manufactured, installed and maintained the booth, but whether a jury would have held any of them liable will never be known. Rather than face trial, the companies paid him a six-figure sum 11 years after the crash.
Through extensive physical therapy, he was able to learn to walk again. A dozen years after being maimed, he returned to his job. A range of health problems, including circulatory troubles and frequent infections were part ot the legacy of being rammed with a car, as were severe bouts ot depression requiring psychiatric treatment- Bigbee died last year at 52.
"In my layman's mind, I have no doubt the injuries were a factor," Cacciatore said. "He was always in pain. He had ulcers and sores from the prosthesis and was on antibiotics a lot. That couldn't have been good."
After learning President Reagan had publicly ridiculed him, Bigbee testified at a congressional hearing on liability law. He asked to be able to meet the president and tell his story. He never received a response.
" "He was personally offended by how Reagan and the news stories made a mockery of his suffering," " Cacciatore recalls. "As if he was taking advantage of the poor phone company." Yet in 1986, the truth was not allowed to stand in the way. According to Cacciatore, even after Bigbee testified, the same story was cited by Reagan administration officials and repeated in the media, without mentioning
"The advocates of tort reform blew it completely out of proportion," Cacciatore said, " The idea was judges and juries were crazy and mining our economic system."
- that the suit had settled out of court and had never reached a jury,
- the jamming doors on the phone booth,
- the prior accident on the same spot [and failure to provide a bolster], or
- any of the other factors that put the case in a more reasonable light.
1992: John Vargo writing "The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth," in Verdict, Summer 1992, p.95, has noted that the president related the telephone booth story over national television while surrounded by Boy Scouts.