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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Michael Jackson Estate Wrongful Death: Tort Reform Victim?

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Most lawyers assume that it is only a matter of time before a lawsuit is filed for the wrongful death of Michael Jackson. His surviving family members will, most likely, be filing an action for alleged medical malpractice against Dr. Conrad Murray, and, perhaps, others, whose improper treatment or administration of medication may have contributed to his death. Family members will be surprised to find (as most victims who ignore anti-justice issues until they seek justice are) that California has a strict cap on recovery of non-economic damages in these cases. The limit is an absurd $250,000.

Now, the Jackson family can still pursue punitive damages and economic damages, and in Michael’s case, the economic losses could be huge. But, if all that has been written is true, and punitives do not apply, the Jackson family’s non-economic recovery will be limited to California’s $250,000 cap. Considering that punitive damages require a finding of "malice", the family will have a significant legal burden to overcome. Life is sacred; it is hard to measure "value". Is one victim worth more than another? In the case of Michael Jackson, 50 year old "king of pop", $250,000 is less than the proceeds of one concert.

Lawsuit Financial opposes all forms of tort reform; the Jackson family has significant means, more so than the average victim, but this case drives home the point of the absurdity of caps on non-economic damages and will be a high profile example of that point. Most seriously disabled victims (or survivors of those who are killed) do not have an adequate economic means of support when artificially low capped damages run out. The Republicans are on the wrong side of this one (probably because they get big campaign contributions from insurance companies, big pharm and the U.S. Chamber). If private insurance does not appropriately compensate a victim, the money will quickly evaporate and the victim will have to rely on taxpayer funded support. The private insurance sector, you know, the companies that receive all of those large insurance premiums you and I pay, should have to pay out those premiums in benefits; a victim should not have to go to the taxpayers for government assistance because of artificial caps on damages, which are nothing more than a taxpayer funded insurance company bailout. Isn’t that what Republicans want? Private not public? Government off our backs? Why the exception for the seriously injured and disabled?