Friday, March 4, 2011

The "Mrs. Jefferson" Solution To The Tort Reform Movement

I wish I had gotten her name. For the purposes of this post I'll call her "Mrs. Jefferson." She came up to me after a presentation I gave a few years ago on our civil justice system in Ohio. Actually, it was a debate.

On the panel was a local legislator, a physician, and me. They were advocating for various medical tort reforms, particularly the hard, one size fits all government imposed limits on what malpractice victims can recover in lawsuits. From my lonely perch at the end of the table, I explained that tort reform was a bad idea that really punishes innocent victims with legitimate cases of injury, and would do nothing to bring down health care costs. I argued that the only group that would benefit from arbitrary caps on damages would be the malpractice insurance companies.

It was a lively debate and it dovetailed into a discussion of frivolous lawsuits and what should be done about them. Although I probably lost the debate, like Rocky, I went down swinging...

Anyway, as it ended and I was packing my papers into my briefcase, Mrs. Jefferson approached me. She shook my hand, thanked me for talking to their group, and had this observation:

You know, it sounds to me like they need to crack down on those goofball lawsuits and leave the legitimate ones alone, because it might just be me sittin' in the wheelchair someday due to someone else's mistake.

She said more in one sentence than we did in an hour's debate equipped with talking points and fancy charts. And she's right: why punish those seriously harmed due to a preventable medical mistake with the socialistic notion that those very same individuals need to sacrifice their recovery rights for the good of the whole?

Mrs. Jefferson got it. Unfortunately, most people learn what a bum deal tort reform is for them (and individual constitutional rights) only after they're on the receiving end of a life altering, preventable mistake. It's like what Roy Rogers once said: "You never know how sweet the water is till the well runs dry." And, believe me folks, the well is running dry on your legal rights in Ohio and all over the U.S.

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