Monday, December 18, 2006

Up The Creek in Hampton County

We're right on the county line just inside of Hampton County, SC. As is generally the case, we were heading somewhere else when we arrived here. We are always interested in large outdoor murals which we usually find painted on the blank side of commercial structures. Some are works of art, some are ghastly, but most are on the higher end of in between. Seldom do even the worst of them detract from the buildings on which they are painted. The dramatic improvement is clearly demonstrated below.

Our incursion into the jurisdiction of Hampton County was purely accidental and a bit chilling as it might have been to have drifted into East Berlin with West Berlin tags back in the 60's. Few if any manufacturers, retailers or corporate entities make this mistake. They stay away in droves. Hampton County has earned a reputation for predatory civil litigation and plaintiff biased juries at a level of corruption exceeded by only two other counties in the United States. What was done literally to civil rights protesters in Alabama in the 60's is being done figuratively to corporate defendants today in Hampton County: they are getting hosed.

The American Tort Reform Association in 2004 named Hampton County as the 3rd worst "hellhole" for civil litigation in the US. Hampton County draws few if any tourists, but plaintiff lawyers flock to the area. As people go to Maine for their lobsters, ambulance chasing lawyers come to Hampton for their juries as if they were a special home grown crop. They are. They tend to deliver unjust verdicts and obscenely high awards against corporate plaintiffs. You don't have to be rich corporation to pay here. If you own as much as the shirt on your back, someone else will be wearing it after the trial.

Poor educational systems, low income and audacious corruption contributes to the problem. Until 2005, a plaintiff's attorney could pick any of the 46 counties in which to bring a law suit as long as that corporation had some business connection with any county in the state. When lawyers shopped for juries, they came to Hampton. Not very long ago, a mistrial was declared in a suit brought in Hampton against Ford Motor Company because it was discovered that FIVE of the jurors had been previous clients of the plaintiff's attorney.

We're no corporation, but we didn't want to get our tires sued from under us for snooping around. We came just 36 inches into Hampton County to get the shot of this delightful mural. It has no posted title, but we think it should be called "Up The Creek in Hampton County". The folks in that boat have paddles, but in Hampton County the defendants do not.


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