John Grisham The King of Torts
Lots of things have been happening and I have been unable to be on top of things. There are so many things that happen and keep on happening and a lot of it is just not in control. For those who are watching Brexit, India is going through the same/similar phenomena just without Brexit. I would not like to delve much into Indian happenings as there is no sweet story to tell.
Mum is in hospital (diabetic foot) so a lot of time to read books. So I have been making use of the time and at the same time learning or making connections from what I know of the history of the world which goes on enriching what I read all the time. For e.g. in this book, opens up with people who are on Crack. Now while the book is set in 2003, it is still relevant today for a lot of things. There have been rumors and whatnot that the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan supplied a lot of cocaine to black folks in the early 1980s. While that has never been proved, it has been proved somewhat that the CIA and even people in the state department were part of providing crack cocaine to African Americans (as they refer to blacks) in those days. Whether this was because of black power rising or non-profits like ACLU or other organizations is beyond me. I had also read that the GOP (Republicans/Grand Old Party) in the 1970s itself when computers became fast and could do a lot of processing, came to know if education would be as it is, then soon they would no voters. hence they decided to defund education in America, the end result being massive education loans to prospective students and perhaps partly the reason why China produces more than enough STEM graduates than the total number of Americans who become graduates. It is a shame nonetheless, that education in the U.S. is never top 😦 . This is somewhat from a Republican perspective. That is also the reason they are much anti-science.
India doesn’t have either class-action suits or tort cases. But before we go headlong, this is what tort means. The book however is not about general tort cases but medical tort cases. The idea is that medical companies often produce medicines claiming they solve x or y issues but more often than not they take short-cuts to get approval from FDA and other regulators. And sooner or later those medicines can and do have harmful effects on the body, sometimes resulting in death.
One of the more interesting articles that I read and probably also shared is the work done by Mr. Rob Bilott. While it is a typical David and Goliath story once you read the book, you realize that there are and were many difficulties in Mr. Rob’s path that are never fully appreciated or even worked out. The biggest issue is the 8 years that he paid out of his own pocket to get the hundreds and thousands of people tested. How many of us would do that?
And this is before proving causation of any disease, illness or anything to a particular environment, pollution etc. is hard even then and even now. Whatever money the victims receive afterward and whatever went to Mr. Rob Bilott would never compensate for the stress faced by him. And lawyers have to be careful, if they ask too little, they are not hurting the company and there is no change in its behavior. If they ask too much, the company can declare Chapter 11, bankruptcy so they have to keep the balance.
There is also a lot of greed shown by the tort lawyer and while at the end he does tell about a company’s nefarious activities that he suspects he could share his opinion only after giving up his law career. There is and was talk of tort-reform in the book but as can be seen if you ‘reform’ tort there is just no way to punish such companies but that is in the U.S.
There is also some observations that I have shared over the years, for e.g. Europe bans far more drugs than the U.S. does. A major part of it is perhaps due to the fact that Europe has 26/27 independent medical regulators and one country bans medicine for one or the other reason, the rest of Europe also bans the same. In the U.S. it is only the FDA. I have read they have had both funding and staffing issues for years and this is from before the pandemic. The Indian regulators are much worse. One could follow Priyanka Pulla’s articles in Mint and others where she has shared how the regulator is corrupt and lazy and a combo of both.
And all of this is besides how doctors are corrupted in India by marketing executives of pharma companies. That would be a whole article in itself. In short, when you read this book, there are so many thoughts that come alive when you are reading the book. The sad part is the book doesn’t offer any solutions at all. John Grisham’s books are usually legal thrillers and courtroom exchanges, this one though is and was very different. This one sadly doesn’t take one to any conclusion apart from the fact that we live in an imperfect world and there don’t seem to be any solutions. This was even shared by Rep. Katie Porter in her pinned tweet. The Abbvie’s of the world will continue to take common people like you and me for a ride.