Ralph Nader’s hope for visitors to his American Museum of Tort Law is that they leave it knowing they have rights under our legal system and should not be intimidated by corporate America into believing they are not important.
“My hope is that they come away from here with a more extensive understanding of their rights if injured,” he said Saturday afternoon during an open house of the museum where admirers stopped him for autographs and thanked him for making the country a safer place in which to live.
The daylong celebration of the museum began at noon at the Winsted United Methodist Church on Main Street, followed by a convocation ceremony at Gilbert High School and ending with an open house at the 654 Main St. facility where some of Nader’s greatest victories in the tort arena are displayed.
Lawn darts, the Dalkon Shield female contraceptive device, auto industry creations such as the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Corvair, big tobacco’s fall from power, hot coffee and flaming rats tell the stories of ordinary people who suffered extraordinary losses before Nader and his crusaders led the fight to make and keep corporate America responsible for altering lives.
“Challenging corporate America forces lobbyists who try to weaken and destroy the American dream and replace it with their own agenda into taking responsibility,” Nader said.
The museum, housed in the 6,500 square feet of the former Winsted Savings Bank, showcases the way regular people went up against deep pockets and not only won in a personal sense, but also forced unwilling corporations into changing the way they do business in order to protect the public.
“A person can make a difference, but they defeat themselves before they even start,” Nader said.
That defeat is a result of the fear the injured feel when up against impossibly large corporations, but every mass victory starts with one person and in turn, hundreds and thousands of people have been kept safe since McDonald’s decreased the temperature of its coffee, lawn darts were permanently taken off toy store shelves, the auto industry began putting seat belts in vehicles and smokers learned of the deathly dangers of cigarettes.
Nader said an expansion plan of the museum is in the works and will add another 10,000 square feet of space to include the opening of a second level, a full-sized court room, a small library and a touring exhibit.
The American Museum of Tort Law, the first law museum in the United States, was designed to empower visitors with knowledge and teach them the truth behind high profile tort cases, Nader stated. It is not mired in legal-speak. Instead, cases are presented in an easy-to-understand format that will become important teaching tools for children, said Richard L. Newman, executive director of the American Museum of Tort Law.
Like Nader, Newman expressed hope that visitors to the museum will have a better understanding and appreciation of tort law.
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