Many Distortions in This Debate
Regarding: “Legal Urban Legends Hold Sway,” Aug. 14, and “Coverage of Big Awards for Plaintiffs Helps Distort View of Legal System,” Aug. 15:
Although Myron Levin harped on the dangers of misinformation caused by the “Winnebago lawsuit,” ascribing guilt (by association, no less!) to those interested in reforming our tort system, it seems you were careful to ignore much more egregious examples of nonbusiness, noncorporate entities engaging in exactly the sort of behavior you decry.
For example: the Audi 5000 fraud, aired on CBS’ “60 Minutes”; the “Dateline” episode on NBC entitled “Waiting to Explode,” where explosives were used to doctor crash results; Connie Chung’s piece on the supposed dangers of silicone breast implants, since debunked by scientific research; and the recent (indeed, still-unfolding) scandal involving massive fraud in silicosis class-action lawsuits.
In these examples, it was noncorporate entities (e.g., the Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America, Public Citizen, Ralph Nader, etc.) pushing their own agendas -- they funded the pseudo-scientific studies, provided talking points and video to networks, or paid for phony medical exams.
Thanks to Myron Levin for shedding much needed light on what has become a dangerous and insidious campaign to undermine our civil justice system.
“Tort reform” translates into increasing profits for insurance companies and less accountability by corporations, all at the expense of the public good.
We’ve already tried this in California. Since 1975, noneconomic damages in medical negligence cases have been capped at $250,000. Tort reform has worked so well here that if a 4-year-old dies because she is given the wrong amount of medicine by an inattentive healthcare provider, her family may have difficulty finding a lawyer to represent it.
If the family is lucky enough to find a lawyer and the lawyer wins the case at trial, the family will share what’s left of $250,000, after expert witness and other costs of up to $100,000 and attorneys’ fees of about $50,000 are deducted.
If we let the tort reformers have their way with the civil justice system, there will be no justice left when they are done. But the insurance companies and corporations will be just fine with that.
Linda Fermoyle Rice
Rice & Bloomfield
Having a doctor and a personal injury lawyer in the family, I hear both sides. The number of suits that are without basis is extraordinary and there are many other costs beyond those awarded by a jury or court.
In all but the most outrageous cases, insurance companies settle because that is less costly than opposing a suit and taking the chance of losing in court. This drives up the cost of malpractice insurance and forces doctors from the area.
I suggest that there be a review committee made up of judges, consumer advocates and those from the group targeted by the suit to rule on the validity of cases before trial.
If they determine a suit is without merit, the plaintiff and plaintiff’s lawyer would have to pay the defendant’s costs and a fine.
It would have helped to point out who has benefited from the caps on pain and suffering that are in effect in some states.
No one has noticed that insurance premiums have not decreased. I wonder why?