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Mark Bello
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“Jackpot Justice”-Another Tort Reform Distortion

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Republican Senator John Kyl, from Arizona, recently appeared on "Fair and Balanced" Fox New’s "On the Record", with Greta Van Susteren. The guest host was someone named Martha MacCallum (who I am not familiar with). If memory serves me correctly, Greta used to be a trial lawyer before going to the "Republican News Network". I wonder where she stands on these issues. Here is an unedited transcript of some of the questions and answers:

MACCALLUM: …What’s "jackpot justice," and…why would you like to see it addressed more head-on in this health care or health insurance reform bill, whatever you want to call it?

KYL: How about addressed at all? This is the great untold story of the health care debate. You hear a lot of sacrifices that senior citizens are going to have to suffer, a $400 billion or $500 billion cut in Medicare. Small businesses are going to have to have a tax increase, and so on. But the president and the Democratic leaders have not asked the trial lawyers to sacrifice, and that’s the big untold story here because there is a huge amount of money that could be saved. And after all, the number one problem here that we’re trying to resolve is the problem of increasing costs of health care delivery. And one of the biggest contributors to that is our medical malpractice system, or the lawsuit abuse problem that results in the "jackpot justice" that I wrote about. That is something that the Democratic leadership and the president have been unwilling to address, and the reason is very simple. Howard Dean, former national Democrat chairman, said in a town hall meeting in northern Virginia on August 17th that the reason that tort reform is not in the legislation is very simple. And that is, the authors of the bill did not want to take on the trial lawyers.

Like Richard "Let’m fail" Shelby in Alabama, we have another United States Senator who just doesn’t get it. Tort reform is not about ‘lawsuit abuse’ or ‘jackpot justice’. It is not about ‘frivolous’ lawsuits. It is about capping recoveries in serious cases, where serious injuries have resulted from serious breaches of conduct. If private insurance companies, representing the breaching parties are not required to pay for their insured’s mistakes or /negligent/grossly negligent/abusive conduct, the public will have to pay to take care of that disabled person. The Republicans should be on the other side of this issue, but Senator Kyl and his right-wing colleagues are afraid to take on the insurance companies who, by the way, with the U.S. Chamber, created the ‘tort reform lie’ in the first place. There is no such thing as ‘jackpot justice'; I don’t know a single seriously injured plaintiff who wouldn’t trade the money he/she received from some breach of conduct, care or safety for a return to good health. You attack "trial lawyers"; they are an easy target for you; tell the truth, Senator: It is the victims of medical negligence who will suffer the most, because of your support for another corporate "bailout", this time, for the insurance companies and negligent doctors, and leaving the victims high and dry, to fend for themselves on taxpayer funded public assistance. How much money have the U.S. Chamber and the insurance companies contributed to your political campaign, Senator?

More Kyl:

And incidentally, the problem is not just the cost to the doctors of the premiums, although it is true that there’s one estimate that about 10 percent of every health care dollar is spent by doctors on their health care liability insurance. In fact, a neurosurgeon might pay as much as $200,000 a year…

MACCALLUM: That’s right.

KYL: … on his malpractice insurance. But the problem is they have to pass that cost on to the insurance companies, who pass it on to…

MACCALLUM: Exactly.

KYL: … guess who? You and me. And that’s the problem. And the other problem, which is even bigger in a way, is the problem of defensive medicine.

Oh, really!? One estimate!? Whose, Senator? The U.S. Chamber? Again, you are a Republican Senator, aren’t they the guys who want to get government off our backs, the guys who stand for personal responsibility? If a patient gets rotten treatment from a doctor and is killed, maimed, or crippled, who should take care of him/her, private insurance that the doctor who screwed up paid for? Or, public assistance, paid for by ‘we, the taxpayers’, when a low damage cap can’t provide enough money to sustain any type of quality of life for the victim? I vote for personal or professional insurance and against public assistance in this scenario. That’s why we buy insurance, to protect ourselves when we cause harm to another.

Further, if you, Shelby-type, Republicans are so critical of corporate bailouts why is it so easy for you to support the original corporate bailout, tort reform and damages caps?! Why shouldn’t insurance companies pay on the risks they insure and collect sizeable premiums for? Yes, some private insurance costs are probably passed on to patients; I submit that private insurance costs are far better forms of containment than passing on the cost of caring for the seriously injured and disabled from private insurers to the taxpayer in the form of damage recovery caps.

And defensive medicine? What does that term even mean? Why shouldn’t I get all of the diagnostic tests necessary to make a proper diagnosis? And why shouldn’t a doctor be sued and made to pay damages if he causes serious disability when failing to properly diagnose a condition that a simple test he failed to perform would have diagnosed, resulting in a timely cure?

As those of you who read my posts regularly know, Lawsuit Financial is a very pro-justice, anti-tort reform company. Further, I wish tort reform advocates would stop lying to the American people. Stop using phrases like ‘lawsuit abuse’, ‘jackpot justice’, ‘junk lawsuits’ (George W.’s favorite) and the like and stop connecting such rhetoric with seriously injured and disabled people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves struggling to survive, physically and financially. These phrases and concepts are an insult to them; all of them would trade any financial justice they might have received, in court, for a return to good health. There is no "jackpot justice" after a serious injury accident, Senator Kyl; there is only miserable sustenance.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Very good job of addressing the truthes that they really don’t want to talk about , as they run everywhere talking about the things that they claim no one is talking about. This is the old Bush/Rove attack the lawyers playbook. There is no interest in protecting the consumer or even telling the truth about wanting to put more money in the pockets of Insurance companies, big business and their favorite buddies the Pharmaceutical companies. Keep pointing out the truth.