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Newsweek Article on Lawsuits Is Fatally Flawed, Full of Falsehoods and Exaggerations

... READ Public Citizen’s critique of the Newsweek article.
... READ Joan Claybrook's letter to the editors of Newsweek asking them to review their standards.

In a much-touted Dec. 15 cover story entitled “Lawsuit Hell,” Newsweek published a one-sided diatribe masquerading as journalism. In what purported to be an in-depth look at what business interests have erroneously labeled a “litigation crisis,” the magazine went well beyond advocacy journalism to launch an unprecedented crusade against consumers’ access to courts. Not content to simply run a highly questionable article, Newsweek partnered with NBC for a week of broadcast tie-ins and online chats.

Newsweek fell for myths and distortions spread by a well-organized campaign funded by big business to strip consumers – but not businesses – of their legal rights. Because of the article’s glaring deficiencies, Public Citizen today sent a letter to the magazine calling on the editors to review journalistic standards. The article includes:  

  • Many false and exaggerated examples to present an unbalanced and negative caricature of the legal system;
  • Major factual inaccuracies about the legal system and lawsuits; and
  • Proposed solutions that have no basis in experience.

Many of the examples Newsweek used were wild exaggerations or anecdotes that never involved lawsuits to begin with, and Public Citizen provides a detailed critique of them. Many of the “facts” cited in the article have been debunked by independent sources such as the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Budget Office.

The article’s lead author, Stuart Taylor Jr., is a former corporate attorney who admitted to Newsday that his writings are primarily commentary. Further, when writing the Newsweek piece, Taylor relied heavily on a book by corporate defense lawyer Philip K. Howard, adopting many of Howard’s faulty arguments.

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