GLENN: All right. John Stossel, he is quite possibly my favorite libertarian. He's going to report on ABC's 20/20 tonight and Stossel is talking exactly about what we've been talking about this week and that's terrorism. He talks about legal terrorism, he talks about these attorneys that bully companies into folding. You know, there are bad guys out there. There are bad companies out there. There are times that people screw people, and it's wrong. It's wrong. But we have entered an age into where it doesn't matter anymore. Americans -- I said this probably 10, 15 years ago -- oh, jeez, longer than that now. Americans are looking at the legal system as the great American lottery. It is a lottery system now. It doesn't matter. You know, do whatever you have to do. It's a scratch ticket.
How many of us have ever taken a promise to ourself that you're just not going to sue, you are not that kind of person, you are not going to sue. It doesn't matter how much money is involved. If you really, truly don't believe that it's going to change anything except your bank account, why would you sue? You know, there's a story today in the paper about a school -- we'll get into later -- where the student was being taught by the teacher and the teacher later claimed, "I'm just trying to expand their mind." The teacher was actually teaching that Christians kill more people than anybody else, Christianity is the great evil over the Earth. So the kids sued. Parents said, "We don't want any money. We just want that teacher to be reprimanded." When's the last time you heard that? There is real terrorism going on. Remember you don't have to have a bomb to be a terrorist. There's extortion going on and we saw it with Wal-Mart this week. We're seeing it with oil companies this week. And John Stossel is with us now and he's got it on ABC on 20/20 tonight. Hello, John.
STOSSEL: Hello, Glenn. You are talking about legal extortion this morning? Good for you.
GLENN: We've been talking about it all week, John. Haven't you been concerned about what happened with Wal-Mart this week?
STOSSEL: I guess I've been so busy in my smoking story, I didn't even know. What happened with Wal-Mart this week? Oh, they caved on something.
GLENN: Yeah, they caved on -- they caved on a really heartfelt story, I mean, a story that is just, will kill you, tear you up inside. A woman gets hit by a truck, she's a Wal-Mart employee, she was out on a Saturday, I think she was going to rummage sales. She gets hit by a truck, gets hurt, $470,000. She then sues. She has short-term memory loss now. She doesn't remember anything for very long. She really can't work anymore. She sues this trucking company. They settle the case for under a million dollars. After the attorney fees she's only left with $417,000. Wal-Mart's insurance company comes out and says, "Okay, well, we need the money back from you because that's part of your health insurance." That clause is in almost every health insurance policy in the country. I mean, it started from the Government in Medicaid.
The media piles on because she's got a son that was lost in the war and this is a tragic story. Wal-Mart caves and says they're now going to start to look at each case individually to see if it warrants that maybe their insurance company isn't paid back.
STOSSEL: And Wal-Mart caved because the media piles on saying, "Oh, look at the cruel company; it won't cost them anything; they should pay."
GLENN: Exactly right. That's what they said, that money means nothing to Wal-Mart.
STOSSEL: And it means more to those of us who all have to pay higher health insurance premiums to pay for companies that can't apply basic contracts.
GLENN: So John, how do people -- how do you get people to understand? Did you see the story about the guys who were protesting in the lobby of Bear Stearns last week where this is a guy, Robert Marks who calls himself a bank terrorist. And he's protesting and he wants cheap loans. I mean, it's incredible.
STOSSEL: Well, I think about, you know, why is there so much hatred of business in general and this enriches the lawyers further. I thought it was a disparity of wealth that people hated that CEOs have so much money but then you think about the kings and queens of England and they had vastly more money than the average poor person and yet it was the bourgeoisie that people hated. People have always hated businessmen, the very people that sell them the things we need to make our lives better because there's the sense that it's a zero sum game, that if somebody makes a profit, it needs to be taken from us. And until we can educate people that these businesses provide a service and our lives are better because of them, the lawyers will loop them and take away our money and freedom.
GLENN: I saw the editorial you had today in The Wall Street Journal online, Small Victories for Tort Reform and you talk about these attorneys that are living in an apartment complex suing somebody who lives next door to them for smoking in their own house.
STOSSEL: And the smoker lived there first. Didn't they smell it when they looked at the apartment many, many times? The guy said, "Oh, she must not have been smoking at that time." And these lawyers are even open enough in their threat to her that they say, "We are both attorneys, both litigators so that the barriers to litigation are low to us." One more threat because this woman would have to pay a fortune to high her own lawyer.
GLENN: This is -- John, what happened to us where we -- I had a guy on the air say that extortion is okay. What has happened to us to where -- because what those attorneys did basically is blackmail.
GLENN: You change your behavior because you'll never be able to deal with us.
STOSSEL: Exactly. And America is the only country, one of the few countries that has the "lose or pay" rule which would at least discourage that kind of extortion.
GLENN: So is that the answer?
STOSSEL: It's one of them. I think two things. I mean, I said that to Philip Howard who runs this Common Good Group and he said, look, that alone wouldn't be enough because these lawyers are rich enough to pay the other fees. They can still bully, but we need judges who will step in and say to the guy, to the judge in Washington who sued the dry cleaner for all that for the $50 million for his one pair of pants that, you know, we're going to make you pay for this.
GLENN: The lawyers that were the neighbor of the smoking woman, first of all what happened in the story -- and the second question is who are they. They've won lawsuits -- they've made companies pay up to $2 billion, right?
STOSSEL: They have. He's a matrimonial lawyer and he's a class action lawyer for Lieff Cabraser, one of these monster class action firms that's been accused of doing those deals where the company settles and gets people almost nothing, the class, and gives the lawyers millions and that's how he's made I don't know how much money for himself but he claims $2 billion he's supposedly won for consumers. In those cases the companies almost always deny doing anything wrong but they pay up because the defendant, it's just cheaper to settle than make the bully lawyers go away.
GLENN: And what happened with the smoker?
STOSSEL: In the case of the smoker they first said, dear resident, immediately cease smoking or make sure no smoke ever goes in the common hallway. And this is the Ansonia. This is one of those fancy New York buildings with massive hallways. You could drive a car through it. The smoke would dissipate and we couldn't smell smoke there. But he kept -- he said he would sue. She installed vents to make sure no smoke went to his apartment. He sued anyway. She got big air purifiers. He added more demands to his suit. And last night she signed some long list of demands which I haven't seen yet. So I don't know what she felt she had to agree to. One of the demands was stop talking to the media.
GLENN: Well, unfortunately she's already talked to the media. She talked to you. And is that going to be on the -- on 20/20 tonight?
STOSSEL: That will be. It might give me a break at the end of 20/20 tonight.
GLENN: All right. We'll see you then. Thanks, John.
STOSSEL: Thanks, Glenn.
GLENN: The article is amazing. It's on the Wall Street Journal online, Small Victories for Tort Reform. It is extortion through and through. Let me ask you this, America. What is the difference? You hate it when Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton comes up and forces a company to fire Don Imus or forces a company to fire or change its behavior in one direction because Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition says we're going to protest, we're going to drag you through the mud. You hate it. You hate it. Well, why? Are you racist? Is it because you just don't like it when a black man does it, when you do that or is it because of your values and principles and you know that kind of behavior is wrong?