Houston Business Journal Letter, June 18-25, 2010

As the Deepwater Horizon Gulf well continues to spew millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, I read with great interest, intrigue and utter amazement the commentary of Court Koenning in the June 11 edition (Rig disaster attracts raft of personal injury lawyers).

The lengths to which Mr. Koenning goes to again demonize, vilify and outright bash trial lawyers is remarkable. The focus of his commentary surrounds the worst environmental disaster in the United States' history (the BP rig explosion), as well as the Toyota recall of millions of vehicles earlier this year. The thrust of his argument, though, is the involvement of trial lawyers in these matters.

Mr. Koenning insinuates there have been lawsuits filed by personal injury lawyers that are without merit - but fails to cite a single lawsuit to support his attack on these lawyers.

Probably the most interesting sentence in the commentary is, "What we don't know is what exactly happened to cause the explosion or what parties are responsible."

Is Mr. Koenning of the belief the government will fully investigate and find the answers to these questions? Or does he believe these companies will self-report their own responsibility or fault?

Our third branch of government, the judicial branch, was created by our Constitutional founders to serve as a check and balance of not only the other branches, but to enforce the rule of law with our private citizenry.

For the past 234 years, litigation has played a vital role in ensuring and enhancing public safety in our country. Not only has litigation advanced public safety, but it has encouraged improvement in areas almost too numerous to mention. These include airbags, seatbelts, child safety seats, tires, minivan doors, hot water vaporizers, children's pajamas, farm machinery, firearms, building materials, intrauterine contraceptive devices, tampons, sleeping pills, antidepressants, pain medications, appetite suppressants and many more.

No matter the extent of the name-calling, litigation holding those responsible for causing injuries and damages remains a vital component to our public health and safety.

While I do not currently have any cases against BP or Toyota arising out of the catastrophic environmental disaster or the recall of millions of vehicles, I am proud of my brothers and sisters in the law who are working to hold those responsible for their negligent and outrageous conduct that has cost the lives of many, as well as the livelihood of thousands of businesses along the Gulf Coast.

To Mr. Koenning, I hope he writes as passionately about those companies who are responsible for the Gulf Coast disaster when it is ultimately determined who should be held accountable, as he does about lawyers who are trying to find out the answers to this question.

To those who are opposing BP and Toyota, I can assure you they will be hiring the best lawyers the country has to offer to defeat you at every turn. -- Randall O. Sorrels, past president, Houston Bar Association