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Ralph Nader Opens American Museum of Tort Law
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Ralph Nader

Summary: Tort cases change entire industries and make people safer. Ralph Nader wants to remember them.

There’s an old adage that “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.” Presidential candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader has taken this principle to new heights. After extensive research and curation efforts, he has compiled an assortment of defective toys and unsafe machines and put them in a museum.


The American Museum of Tort Law features items that have been involved in tort cases. Tort law relates to wrongful acts that injure someone, warranting a remedy.

Nader is a well-known consumer advocate, tort lawyer, and writer who has spent his career advocating for safer products. He rose to fame largely due to the success of his 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, which accused car manufacturers of resisting safety features like seat belts. According to Nader, the auto industry was reluctant to spend money on improving safety at that time.

Nader got the idea for the museum in the 1990s when he was talking with another lawyer. The lawyers started wondering, “What becomes of the displays for tort cases after the suits are done?”

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He started collecting items from high-profile tort cases, including memorabilia from the 1990s case where a woman sustained third degree burns on her hands from coffee at McDonalds. He also collected anti-tobacco wall panels and a teddy bear with fur that children can choke on.

American Museum of Tort

The heart of the museum is a bright red Chevy Corvair from Nader’s own safety litigation case. The car was featured in Unsafe at Any Speed; the 81-year-old’s advocacy and legal work ultimately led U.S. auto manufacturers to implement seat belts and airbags in their products.

See Toyota’s Highest Ranking U.S. Executive Testifies in Acceleration Defect Case.

The museum also features the bizarre and gruesome “Flaming Rat” case from the 1940s. The matter involved a 19-year-old factory employee, William Daniels, who cleaned a machine with gasoline. The gasoline ultimately leaked through the equipment and doused a rat hiding underneath. Seeking shelter, the rat ran straight under a gas heater and erupted into flames. The panicked animal then ran back to the machine, triggering an explosion that killed both the rodent and Daniels.

Although Nader founded the museum, he has refrained from placing his name on the landmark. Nader stated during the opening, “The common law of torts should be named the American Common Law of Torts. Everybody contributed to it. Millions of jurors, tens of thousands of lawsuits and brave witnesses–everybody participated in it. Why would you put anybody’s name on it?”

Source: NPR

Other sources: www.nader.orgSelectism

Photo credits: New York Times (top image), Selectism (bottom image)


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