Justinian C. Lane, Esq.
Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall

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Another Interesting Article with an Anti-Republican Slant

Again, I'm not taking sides with Democrats - I'm still irritated at Kerry and Edwards' disingenuous and dishonest stance about tort reform.  That said, here are some quotes from a great article

For those of you who don't know, expert witness fees aren't reimbursed if a plaintiff wins a case.  This quote sums up the problem with capping pain and suffering.

"Ivy explained that the only money Smith could extract from Heritage would be for her mother’s “pain and suffering.” To that end, testimony could be introduced about the terror caused by the brutal rape of a confused, elderly woman. But even the most sympathetic jury couldn’t give her more than $250,000, the limit set in the constitutional amendment that passed the previous September. Then Ivy explained why even the maximum award, which Smith was unlikely to get, wouldn’t be enough. Tort reform would force Smith to hire experts in several fields, including psychiatry and nursing-home administration, to prove Heritage had been negligent, costing as much as $20,000 per witness. And with settlements rarer because insurance companies know a jury can’t sting them for more than $250,000, a trial was far more likely than before the initiative passed. All told, Frank Ivy’s five-person law firm had to be prepared to spend $100,000 with no guarantee of recovery or earning its contingent fee of 40 percent of the payout. When all the math was done, the best Smith could hope for would be to win perhaps $50,000 from a nursing home that apparently hired a sexual predator to care for her mother. "

I've previously read that malpractice kills 90-100k people per year, and is the sixth leading cause of death.  This article claims it's 131k and the fourth leading cause of death.  Considering the article's author - Dan Zegart, Google him - I believe it.

"More specifically, malpractice filings declined nationally by about 4 percent between 1995 and 2000. And while a recent analysis of the Medicare population estimated that medical errors kill 131,000 people annually, making it the fourth leading cause of death, medical suits are only 5 percent of personal-injury filings, with product liability cases another 5 percent. Plaintiffs lose 60 percent of product cases and 70 percent of malpractice suits.

Not only are socially significant lawsuits like malpractice and product liability a small fraction of the legal picture but numerous studies show that capping damages doesn’t affect insuance premiums. One survey examined insurance rates between 1985 and 1998, then ranked the states according to the severity of their restrictions on lawsuits. Increased severity did not produce lower rates. In Texas, where malpractice filings dropped 20 percent in the nine years before Proposition 12, the liability picture has been little improved by its passage. About a third of doctors will see a decrease of 12 percent—after cumulative increases of 147 percent. The rest will either get no relief or double-digit increases."

I knew that the tobacco industry funded many "Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse" groups, and that it provided 50% of the funding for the American Tort Reform Association.  But I didn't know that Karl Rove used to be a Philip Morris consultant:

"The solution was born in south Texas in 1991, when the Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce, infuriated by a $2.5 million verdict to two Mexican-Americans illegally fired from a sugar mill, launched Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, which plastered billboards across the valley with slogans like “Lawsuit Abuse: Guess Who Picks Up the Tab? You Do,” according to a joint study by the Center for Justice and Democracy and Public Citizen. The cigarette companies were already deeply involved in the issue, and Philip Morris provided generous start-up funding for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. Thanks in large part to tobacco largesse, there were CALA groups all over the country by the mid-1990s. In 1993 and 1994, while a politically green George W. Bush received instruction from Mike Toomey, soon-to-be lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Karl Rove, a consultant to Philip Morris, was convincing Bush to exploit the lawsuit-abuse issue in his first gubernatorial campaign, according to the book Bush’s Brain, by James Moore and Wayne Slater. Tort reform proved a powerful weapon. Although of little interest to voters, the issue, according to Rove himself, was a magnet for corporate donations—among numerous other benefits. "

If it weren't for those "damned greedy lawyers," asbestos would still be in our schools.  In some cases, Gordon Gecko had it right: Greed is good.

"Carl Bogus, a law professor at Roger Williams University, argues that what plaintiff’s lawyers do best is regulate, a role that has become more and more vital as government’s watchdog function has shrunk under conservative attack. Bogus notes that while asbestos caused 170,000 deaths from lung cancer, the Environmental Protection Agency was never able to ban it. Lawsuits forced it from the market. "

It's always good to know that the 7, 8, and 9 digit salaries of insurance company executives is included in the "tort tax."

"On the tort reform side, the numbers tell a story of squandered dollars. The $809 “tort tax” was invented by taking $233 billion, which is what insurance industry consultant Tillinghast-Towers Perrin says is the cost of the tort system, and dividing it by the population of the United States. But those billions represent not only legal expenses but the total cost of running the insurance industry, including executive salaries, advertising expenditures and much else unrelated to lawsuits. The real figure is probably less than half that amount. "

Read the rest of the article when you get a chance.  It's lengthy but informative.

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