This Is How a Concerned Citizen Thinks

I am proud of my work as a trial attorney, as a consumer advocate, and as an officer of a charitable organization, World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc., dedicated to the cause of child safety. I am proud that lawmakers over the years, with attorneys and all concerned citizens, have made a difference. Ms. Skenazy herself points to safer cars, seat belts, helmets, flame-retardant children’s sleepwear, and countless other examples of improved safety leading to saved lives. As attorney Gerry Spence so aptly stated, “Without trial lawyers and fair courts and unbiased juries to hear our cases, we will be rewarded with the same justice that people across the world experience – no justice at all, not even the empty promise of it.”

Mr. Green eloquently points out that Ms. Skenazy again makes her points through exaggerations, and she now tries to demonize the messenger: “This is how a trial lawyer thinks,” she writes. Our legal system helps shed light on behind-the-scenes dealings of corporations and others that disregard the safety of our country’s children and all citizens. For example, the true extent of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal was uncovered only when brave victims, with their counsel, obtained internal documents and testimony under oath, otherwise unavailable to the public.

Of course, the argument can always be taken to extremes by alleging “unusual and unpredictable” circumstances, however this is not representative of the ongoing discussion, which focuses on preventable injuries and deaths.

A juror who sat on an important workplace safety case said it best: “It is already difficult enough for ordinary people to take on the corporations that do them harm. Why would anyone ever suggest that … we should take the slingshot away from David and hand it to Goliath?” This is how a concerned citizen thinks.

Also from this issue

Lead Essay

  • Lenore Skenazy argues that when it comes to children, we have gone too far in the pursuit of safety at all costs. This isn’t just a cultural phenomenon, either; it has serious implications for public policy, in the form of consumer product regulations and family and even criminal law. She suggests that it’s time to start learning to relax about children’s safety. In particular, allowing kids to take controlled risks is one of the ways that we introduce them to the real world, which is not and should not be risk-free.

Response Essays

  • Anthony Green argues that child safety is nothing to joke about. It is not an overreach to call the police if you see a child alone in a locked car; on the contrary, you should certainly do it. Real progress has been made in child safety in recent years, even as new threats emerge, including toppling television sets and poisoning among older children. The child protection community has done tremendous good, and safety enables fun rather than inhibiting it.

  • James A. Swartz argues that the multibillion dollar corporations that make children’s products have a responsibility to deliver them without any safety hazards. Recalls and labeling are not enough, and a close examination of many such cases reveals a disturbing trend: Corporations are often indifferent to children’s safety. We ought not to excuse or make light of such behavior.

  • Joel Best identifies two changing factors in American culture that have contributed to overblown fears related to children. The first is the mass media, which excels at spreading alarming stories, whether true or fictionalized. The second is the declining birthrate, coupled with increased safety itself: There are fewer children per family, and losing one is not an experience we suffer so often nowadays. As a result, smaller problems appear more alarming.