By STEVE COHEN
CHARLESTON — The much anticipated premiere of “We Are Marshall” is exciting for West Virginia.
Tragic as the story is, seldom is an episode from our history -– and Mountain State citizens’ courage and stamina in dealing with adversity –- showcased on the silver screen.
Another top-of-mind issue for West Virginians that might be good fodder for aspiring screenwriters is the lawsuit abuse problem in our courts. The topic is full of twists and turns to shock the public conscience, as revealed by the following sampling of what cinema-goers might see.
* “Alien” – an invasion of out-of-state lawsuits keeps West Virginians waiting for justice, in courts paid for by their own tax dollars. Only a desperately needed legislative fix can Charleston can stop the stampede.
* “Hitch” – citizens find that greedy personal injury lawyer advertising, touting slogans like “In a Wreck? Get a Check!” affects them in more ways than appears on the surface.
* “Just Friends” – Bridgeport radiologist Ray Harron is paid nearly $10 million by personal injury lawyers to perform mass screenings of potential asbestos victims, many of whom are allegedly never seen by the doctor.
* “Let’s go to Prison” – a true-to-life account of what happens to the architects of a lawsuit mill.
* “Ghost Rider” – a sequel of sorts to “Just Friends.” Harron’s x-rays are certified by a fictitious physician and presented to a West Virginia court. Even a search dog sent to the bogus address provided by personal injury lawyers finds no trace of who is responsible for the concocted “medical evidence.” Two-thumbs up for this junk science classic.
* “Flushed Away” – Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Darrell McGraw are abruptly disposed of as he settles their claims for $10 million, using the money for his own political slush fund, giving not a penny to the plaintiffs.
* “See No Evil” – McGraw stars again in this political thriller about campaign-contributing personal injury lawyers who are cut in on millions in legal fees from lawsuits they file with McGraw.
* “Grease” – McGraw is back, this time with a cleverly crafted non-compete marketing contract for cronies with ties to the lawsuit industry.
Movie critics find the themes in these West Virginia dramas suitable for film titles like “Hood of Horror” or “Dark Ride.” And many see release of “The Departed” as a fitting account of what happens to Mountain State jobs because of our broken legal system.
Cohen is executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.