Saturday, December 13, 2008

Debating Tort Reform

This week I participated in a TV debate ( more like some friendly coffee shop talk) on tort reform for "Forum 360" (formerly The Civic Forum of the Air, which has been on the air for over 30 years). Alot of this blog is devoted to this issue and I speak to alot of groups about it and it's always fun to try to share what I see and listen to other viewpoints too. Part of my talk involved all the legislative "reforms" in Ohio medical malpractice and other personal injury lawsuits that (1) have capped or limited your recovery for serious injuries caused by things like blatant medical errors, drunk drivers, and recalled Chinese toys, or (2) have given 100% immunity to negligent parties who really don't deserve it.

People are shocked when I tell them that "tort reform" applies to legitimate cases of serious injuries. Case in point: you're a 25 year old stay at home Mom. You are told you have breast cancer, and undergo a mastectomy, only to be told afterward that you were misdiagnosed (the test was not read properly or your results were mistakenly switched with another woman's), and you never had breast cancer.

The result under Ohio law "reforms?" Your recovery is limited to your medical bills (that you have to repay out of any settlement or verdict) and $500,000. How's that for accountability? Pretty good deal if you're a hospital or doctor or their malpractice insurance company. The response I always get is: "I thought tort reform was just about cracking down on frivolous lawsuits." Wrong--that is how it's SOLD to the public by the insurance industry and the Chamber of Commerce.

A few years ago I gave a talk to a group of local professionals. After it was over, a woman approached me and said: "You know, it comes down to this: crack down on the goofball lawsuits, and leave the legitimate cases alone, because someday it might just be me in that wheelchair." She said more in one sentence than I could in a 20 minute talk.

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