Tort Reform

Fact Sheet on Malpractice "Insurance Industry Admits Tort Reform Will Not Lower Premiums"
Limiting Tort Liability from Congressional Budget Office - "even large savings in premiums can have only a small direct impact on health care spending--private or governmental--because malpractice costs account for less than 2% of that spending."

"...blaming personal injury lawyers for exorbitantly priced, dangerous prescription drugs is ludicrous. This is a ruse deflecting attention from the real culprits: raw capitalism, a lust for profit, and an FDA that is asleep at the wheel" (Letters. The Progressive, January, 2005: 7)

"George W says that one of his top three legislative priorities is "lawsuit reform"-- to keep us pesky citizens from suing corporations. "Frivolous lawsuits," he calls them" (Jim Hightower. "Bankruptcy Scams." Texas Observer, 12/17/04: 15).

"..tort law, the unique right of Americans to sue the bastards who rip us off... [Ken] Lay founded Texans for Lawsuit Reform.. Bush's first big move as governor was to call an emergency session of the legislature to act on TLR's agenda. Tort reform [was] new restrictions on the right of stockholders, workers, and pensioners to sue rogue executives" (Greg Palast. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. NY: Plume, 2003: 128).

"George W. Bush has fought to tear apart the one remaining effective control over corporate miscreants: the right of victims to sue corporations and executives that poison workers, kill consumers and cook their books. As Governor, Bush guided such so-called tort reform into Texas law in 1999, a faor to.. Enron's then CEO Ken Lay... [It was] a campaign against victims' rights" (Greg Palast. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. NY: Plume, 2003: 171).

"Victims' rights are under attack. Waving the banner of "Tort Reform," corporate America has funded an ad campaign portraying enterpreneurs held hostage by frivolous lawsuits. But proposed remedies stink of special exemptions from justice...

"The tort reformers' line is that fee-hungry lawyers are hawking bogus fears, poisoning Americans' faith in the basic decency of the business community..." (235).

"...the massive increase in litigation has a single cause: a corporate civil crime wave" (Greg Palast. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. NY: Plume, 2003: 233).

"There is no "flood of frivolous lawsuits" in fact, tort claims are declining and only 2 percent of injured people ever sue for compensation to begin with...

See article by Molly Ivins. (Molly Ivins. "Tort Deform." AlterNet. Posted February 15, 2005).

"It'a a great day for the Eichmanns of corporate America. President Bush on Feb. 18 signed the ill-named "tort reform" bill into law, limiting class-action suits. Doubtless, Ken Lay, former Enron CEO, is grinning as are the corporate suite killers at drug maker Merck, who are now safer from the widows and orphans of Vioxx victims. Closing the doors of justice to the ruined and wrecked families of boardroom bad guys is nothing less than executive clemency for executive executioners...

"At their best, tort lawyers are cops who police civil crime. Just as a wave of burglaries leads to demand for more policemen, the massive increase in litigation has a single cause: a corporate civil crime wave" (Greg Palast. "Executive Clemency For Executive Killers." Progressive Populist, March 15, 2005: 8).

"...Class Action Fairness Act... conservatives have spent more than twenty years demonizing lawyers and ridiculing victims in order to eliminate a uniquely American right, rooted in the Seventh Amendment, that allows juries to assess damages in civil courts for corporate misbehavior... regulating and punishing companies that pollute, maim or cheat...

"...a coalition of businesses has spent tens of millions of dollars on the effort" (Dan Zegart. "Tort "Reform" Triumphs." The Nation, March 7, 2005: 8).

"I believe the homebuilding industry is the source of all that is wrong with this [Texas] state in terms of tort reform and the influence of money in politics" ("Letters." Texas Observer ,Feb. 18, 2005: 2).

"Progressives also have to look at the integration of issues. This is something that the right is very, very savvy about. They know about what I call strategic initiatives. A strategic initiative is a plan in which a change in one carefully chosen issue area has automatic effects over many, many, many other issue areas...

"For example... tort reform, which means putting limits on awards in lawsuits. Tort reform is a top priority for conservatives. Why do conservatives care so much about this? Well, as soon as you see the effects, you can see why they care. Because in one stroke you prohibit all of the potential lawsuits that will be the basis of future environmental legislation and regulation. That is, it is not just regulation of the chemical industry or the coal industry or the nuclear power industry or other things that are at stake. It is the regulation of everything. If parties who are harmed cannot sue immoral or negligent corporations or professionals for significat sums, the companies are free to harm the public in unlimited ways in the course of making money. And lawyers, who take risks and make significant investments in such cases, will no longer make enough money to support the risk. And corporation will be free to ignore the public good. That is what "tort reform" is about" (29-30).

"Tort reform is not about tort reform; it is about allowing corporations to act without restraints, and about taking funding away from the Democratic Party, since trail lawyers are a major source of Democratic funding" (109).

"... you need to reframe the larger issues at stake from your point of view... Take tort reform. Trial lawyers are really publbic protection attorneys, and tort law is law that allows for public protection--it's public protection law. When tort law tries to cap claims and settlements, its effect is to take claims out of the hands of juries... In open courts, where there are juries, the jury can decide whether a given claim is a matter of public protection. Large settlements often have to do with issues of public protection--that is, they go beyond the case at hand. And open courts are the last defense that the public has against unscrupulous or negligent corporations or professionals. When they talk about the lawsuits you don't just say, "No, no, the lawsuits weren't frivolous," you talk instead about public protection, about open courts, about the right to have juries decide, and about the last line of defense against unscrupulous or negligent corporations" (George Lakoff. Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: 109).

Colby Glass, MLIS