In our previous post, we described the case of Naython Watts that resulted in overturning Missouri’s cap on jury-awarded damages in medical malpractice cases. Read more to learn about the larger issues involved in the effort to implement tort reform.
Unfortunately, children like Naython who were rendered severely disabled because of shoddy medical care will not always receive the help they need. In 33 states, victims like Naython be up against tort reform laws that arbitrarily limit non-economic damages to amounts that insurers in those states can live with – whatever the facts of the case.
Tort reform dos not benefit consumers by keeping medical costs down. It does not benefit doctors by reducing their medical malpractice premiums. In fact, an insurance industry study showed that malpractice insurance premiums actually went up in Missouri after damage caps were implemented. The only ‘benefit” was a drop in medical malpractice claims seen by insurers.
Not only does tort reform hurt individual families like Naython’s, but it limits a fundamental right of all Americans – the right to a trial by jury. It makes all of us pay more, one way or another, for the medical mistakes of a few bad doctors. In Texas, one of the two states that has investigated the effects of tort reform systematically, a peer-reviewed study revealed that the Texas 2003 tort reform law had not reduced health-care spending.
“Ultimately the burdens of the reforms likely fall disproportionately on the young, economically disadvantaged and those who suffer the most severe injuries,” states the report, which was published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.
Despite intense pressure from insurance companies and others who seek to limit the power of juries in personal injury trials, several states besides Missouri have overturned caps on damage awards. Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, Oregon, Texas and Washington have overturned the efforts of the insurance industry to protect itself at consumers’ expense. Fortunately, New York has not yet adopted this type of self-serving law; we hope it never will.
Part two of a two-part post on why tort reform is a lie.
Source: Huffington Post, “Exposing the Lie of Tort Reform,” by Larry Bodine, Oct. 18, 2012.