Ralph Nader, renowned consumer advocate, is the driving force behind the opening of a unique museum, called The American Museum of Tort Law, in Winsted, Connecticut.
Nader’s consumer-protection advocacy is the lifeblood of the museum. Now 81 years old, he explained that the museum is a fulfillment of his longtime vision. The American Museum of Tort Law is the only law museum in the Western Hemisphere. This special museum is expected to captivate a wide spectrum of visitors. Nader noted that “it relates to almost everybody’s daily experience. Who hasn’t been in a motor vehicle and watched a crash or been in a crash? Who hasn’t taken drugs, medicines? Who hasn’t been treated by a doctor or a hospital? Who hasn’t had their property damaged wrongfully?”
The museum tells the story of landmark cases through exhibits and graphic-novel type illustrations. One of the exhibits, a Chevrolet Corvair, which was featured in his 1965 book on the auto industry’s safety record, “Unsafe at Any Speed” is a main attraction. The cherry-red Chevrolet Corvair disgraced in his book relates to his General Motors incident, where Nader sued the company for the tort of invasion of privacy.
Of note, and of special significance to the Swartz & Swartz family, is the dedication of a room at the museum for children, describing many types of dangerous toys over the years. The exhibit focuses on the life and work of Swartz & Swartz founder, Edward Swartz, and the nonprofit group World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (WATCH). Ed swartz was a pioneer in the fight to make toys and children’s products safer.
There are historical cases that students read in law school that broke new ground in the 1800s and 1900s and have expanded. Another main attraction is that many of the exhibits include questions intended to persuade the public to think about how they would have handled certain cases. Nader believes that this encourages our nation to think about our understanding of the law and it is intended to promote and motivate civic duty.
Nader states that the museum is for just about anyone, and his dream does not stop here. He hopes students all over the world will re-enact famous legal cases, and the museum, which so far has raised $2 million, is pursuing support of additional programs, such as national touring exhibitions.