Ralph Nader’s Winsted Tort Museum Appoints New Director

WINSTED — The American Museum of Tort Law is gearing up for its annual Tort Law Day, an online event featuring a range of speakers and education, which this year will be led by the museum’s new director, Melissa Bird.

Like many other venues, the Tort Museum closed during the pandemic. This closure also marked the end of his series of lectures and tours; former director Richard Newman set up virtual tours and events on the museum’s website, but the building remained closed until last year, with little foot traffic. Now, Bird said, the tort museum is growing its online presence and is ready to welcome the public.

Bird, a former member of the Board of Selectmen, was appointed to the position this fall. A former estate agent, she also served on the Board of Selectmen and in 2020 ran for town clerk, a race she lost to Glenn Albanesius. More recently, she was a substitute teacher at Barkhamsted.

“I loved this job,” she said. “I was really thinking about becoming a full-time teacher, when it came up. But that job was something I could get into. I’m excited about it.”

The museum presents its annual tort law education day at 1 p.m. on October 29. The event is virtual and will feature a roster of speakers; residents can register now at www.tortmuseum.org/tort-law-day-2022.

“This is an event dedicated to educating the public about the benefits of tort law,” Bird said. “The law of tort allows us to defend ourselves against negligent driving or dangerous and defective products such as cars, household chemicals and untested new technologies. This is particularly relevant with the verdict of Alex Jones … It is good to see that the truth and the law of tort play a central role in the protection of personal liberty and security.

“Tort law is so relevant, and I don’t think everyone knows how important it is,” Bird said.

Bird said Tort Day marks the start of positive changes at the museum, including expanded hours, more tour opportunities, a new speaker series, and updated video links and information about tortmuseum. org. It is also relaunching some shows that had stopped during the pandemic.

“I have an appointment at Northwestern Connecticut Community College, and I hope to bring interns again, to start new projects,” she said. “As we move forward, we can start looking at some of the things that were originally planned, like mock courtroom programs, debates, discussions, things like that.”

The museum’s gift shop is full of books and gifts, just waiting to be found, she said. “There are prolific choices in the gift shop,” she said. “There are fun things, like t-shirts and mugs, and legal texts of all kinds. … Claire Nader’s new book, ‘You are your best teacher! Sparking curiosity, imagination and l ‘tween intelligence’, is also available.”

The education day will feature talks by Shanin Specter, Founding Partner, Kline & Specter, at 1 p.m. with Tort Law An Instrument of Social Justice, followed by Joanne Doroshow, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Democracy, at 1 p.m. a.m.: 30 p.m., with “The Importance of Protecting and Advancing Tort Law.”

At 2:00 p.m., Valerie P. Hans, Charles F. Rechlin Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, will speak on “Understanding and Protecting Trial by Jury,” and at 2:30 p.m., Kafoury & McDougal Partner Greg Kafoury will present “Demanding justice for injured plaintiffs”.

Museum president and founder and consumer activist Ralph Nader will present “Educating the Public About the Role of Tort Law in Our Democracy” at 3 p.m.

As she considers her programming ideas and updates, Bird wants more than anything to see people walk through the doors of the museum.

“We have to be open,” she said. “We’ve had such wonderful feedback from people, but we need to bring it in. We need to have streams of activity going on, all at the same time.

“With the American Mural Project not far away, that and the Liability Museum are two things Winsted can really make his own,” she said. “There is so much room to grow and develop. The sky is the limit.”

About Hannah Schaeffer

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