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American Tort Reform Association

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

American Tort Reform Association is a coalition of medical professional associations and various industry groups -- such as from the chemical, tobacco and drug industries -- promoting changes to U.S legislation to limit corporate and professional liability for damage caused by their products and services. It had revenues of $6.1 million in 2009. It's president in 2009 was Sherman Joyce. In 2009, the firm reported paying almost $1.2 million to the PR firm APCO Worldwide for "consulting," $544,000 to the corporate law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon for "lobbying," and a total of $1.17 million for lobbying, although the organization claims. Sherman Joyce's compensation and benefits package totaled over $405,000 in 2009.[1]


History and formation

Philip Morris hired APCO Worldwide to manage a massive national effort aimed at altering the American judicial system to be more hostile towards product liability suits ("Tort Reform"). Tort reform was an internal corporate program of Philip Morris, who led other companies into the plan. According to a 1995 Philip Morris Tort Reform Budget, the industry paid APCO Associates almost $1 million in 1995 to implement behind-the-scenes tort reform efforts. APCO's job was to create chapters of "grassroots" citizens' groups called Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALAs). The budget shows the tobacco industry alone budgeted $21.8 million to fund the tort reform effort in the single year of 1995.[2]


ATRA was purportedly co-founded in 1986 by the American Medical Association and the American Council of Engineering Companies as a non-profit organization based on promoting tort & liability reform through public education and legislative action. In particular ATRA lobbies for limits on class actions, abolition of the "rule of joint and several liability", limits on punitive and non-economic damages and "sound science in the courtroom."[3]

On its website ATRA compalins that personal injury lawsuits "are bad for business; they are also bad for society. They compromise access to affordable health care, punish consumers by raising the cost of goods and services, chill innovation, and undermine the notion of personal responsibility. The personal injury lawyers who benefit from the status quo use their fees to perpetuate the cycle of lawsuit abuse. They have reinvested millions of dollars into the political process and in more litigation that acts as a drag on our economy."[3]

Public material published to support these positions include an annual list of "Judicial Hellholes" outlining areas that they find to favor plaintiffs.[4]

ATRA has developed model tort reform laws (The Times 6/12/94).

Lobbying Efforts

In the first two quarters of 2012, ATRA spent $20,000 lobbying to support the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2011, and the House companion bill, HR 966, as well as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2012, They also lobbied in support of the "Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011", They lobbied to oppose the Sunshine in Litigation Act of 2011 and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The American Tort Reform Association Spent $80,000 on lobbying efforts in 2008, $90,000 in 2009, $40,000 in 2010, and $40,000 in 2011. ATRA does most of its lobbying itself, but also contracts out to notorious lobby-shop Shook, Hardy, & Bacon.


On its website ATRA does not include a full list of members but provides only a "sample" list of members. These members, as of July 2012, are:[5]

As of March 2008, the "sample list" was slightly different:[6]



As of March 2008, ATRA staff include[7]:

Contact details

American Tort Reform Association
1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202 682-1163
Fax 202 682-1022

SourceWatch resources

External resources


  1. American Tort Reform Association/Internal Revenue Service/Guidestar 2009 IRS Form 990, government reporting form, accessed January 25,2012
  2. Covington & Burling Tort Reform Project Budget, Budget, October 3, 1995, Bates No. 2047648299/8307
  3. 3.0 3.1 American Tort Reform Association, "ATRA - At a Glance", accessed March 2008.
  4. American Tort Reform Foundation, Judicial Hellholes® 2007", 2007. (Pdf)
  5. American Tort Reform Association, Sample List of ATRA Members, organizational website, accessed July 2, 2012
  6. American Tort Reform Association, Sample List of ATRA Members, organizational website, accessed March 2008, archived by the Wayback Machine, May 13, 2008
  7. "ATRA Staff", accessed March 2008

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