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Mark Bello
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Limitations on BP Damages vs. Injury Victim Damages: The Political Duplicity is Startling

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Two recent articles point out the duplicity of the tort reform debate, especially when Republican politics is involved, and one branch of government (legislative) tries to intervene into the purview of another branch (judicial). BP has been under immense pressure (and deservedly so) to solve the Gulf oil spill problem, clean up the mess it has made, and immediately compensate those victims who have been adversely effected by the disaster. In response, BP has set up a preliminary claims handling system to compensate those whose businesses have been shut down or adversely effected. I confess, I don’t know exactly how this claims system works, but it has received significant criticism because the claims aren’t processed quickly enough and many business owners have not yet received their checks. According to BP, there have been 42,000 claims filed and 20,000 have been paid. If only personal injury accident victims were compensated this quickly, there would be little need for lawsuit funding.

In a separate development, hard line conservative Congressman John Boehner indicated that he supports the lifting of the congressional imposed liability damage cap on oil companies for this BP disaster. Here is what the congressman had to say on ABC News:

"The American people want this oil leak stopped now. They want to know what happened. They want the Gulf cleaned up. And they want it all done now, I just think that BP ought to be held responsible for all of the costs that are involved in this."

Boehner explains that he wants to amend current law so that BP would be responsible not just for the cost of cleanup but also for additional economic damages, over and above what the current law allows. "I think lifting the liability cap on BP and for this spill is appropriate."

Host Jake Tapper asked, "so lift it entirely for BP?"

"Absolutely," Boehner replies. "They should be held responsible for every dime of this cost."

I agree, absolutely. This post should in no way, shape or form be interpreted to suggest that I do not believe that all these helpless, blameless victims should not receive full compensation and receive it yesterday! But….

What is this, a one-time exception? When it is suddenly politically expedient to be a Republican who is opposed to a damages cap, Boehner is for lifting the cap? With all due respect to BP oil victims, how is their plight, how are their damages more important than the damages of a quadriplegic who was made so by a botched surgery in California (for instance)? This poor victim’s damages will last a lifetime and his cost of care will be in the millions. The cap on his damages? $250,000 (a 31 year old standard). And other states have similar damages cap laws. Why? To protect rich, deep pocket hospitals, corporate defendants and insurance companies, that’s why, and to leave you, the taxpayer with their bill. And how long will the quadriplegic in our example wait for his money? Months, even years, as corporate defendants play the "delay, deny, defend" game, hoping to get the victim to settle too early for too little. These corporate-types are despicable in their thirst for injustice for the injured or disabled and they are aided in this injustice by the very members of congress who are now asserting "lift the cap" in the BP fiasco. Suddenly, it is fashionable to be pro-victim? These ‘issue of the day’, ‘please re-elect me’, hypocrites should be run out of Washington on a rail.

BP should be fully responsible for every damn bit of damage that they cause. And every business owner who has been adversely effected and can demonstrate the extent of their damages should get every dime they lost, past, present and future. In addition, in every one of our United States, every accident victim should be entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers, without the government stepping in and mandating limits on their recoveries via tort reform. Many of these victims have permanent, life-changing injuries, far in excess of anything that a BP victim will suffer, but they are only one person, have only one voice, and the political spotlight is not on them, like it is on the Gulf.

So, Congressman Boehner: If tort reform is not acceptable to you when BP is spilling oil into the Gulf, why is it acceptable when a drunk doctor botches a surgery and paralyzes his patient? Why is it acceptable when a drunk driver wipes out your wife and kids? Why is it acceptable when a drug manufacturer produces a new miracle working drug that just happens to cause cancer or heart disease? (In my state, Michigan, tort reform mandates that this victim gets $0, zilch, nada, nothing, if the dangerous drug was FDA approved) Why are damages caps acceptable in these cases? Why shouldn’t these deep pocket defendants "be held responsible for every dime of this cost"; just like BP? What’s that you say? Because these insurance companies and large corporations contribute heavily to your campaign (BP is a Brittish company) and the injured and disabled victims have no political clout? What’s that? Oh, their individual cases do not have a significant impact on large amounts of your voting constituents? After all, they are only only voice, one vote? OK, now, I get it. You are a hypocrite!

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Interesting analysis on this issue that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Boehner really is a piece of work, particularly when he called for the Government to pay for the damages.