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Fighting Back on Tort Reform Misrepresentations

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Trial lawyers are beginning to fight back against the tort reform misrepresentations that have been made in the past and continue to be pushed by big business and insurance companies.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a controversial piece on the Illinois Tort Reform laws which capped the amount of damages which can be assessed against doctors and hospitals. The WSJ claimed:

Much good has resulted since Illinois lawmakers joined 35 other states and placed limits on medical damage awards three years ago. Doctors no longer flee the state in droves, and health care is more accessible. But if the trial lawyers prevail in a case heard by the Illinois Supreme Court recently, those trends could be reversed.

In a letter to the editor, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Philip Corboy, Jr., demonstrates the flaws and one-sided view the article takes. Mr. Corboy actually presents the story of the young girl, which the WSJ conveniently left out:

She is a three-year-old little girl named Abigaile LeBron, whose life has been forever changed by the severe brain damage she suffered as a result of medical negligence. It is likely that Abigaile will have to be fed through a tube for the rest of her life. She will never develop cognitively or physically as her peers do. And she will likely never live independently. It is inarguably a very painful tragedy for Abigaile and all who know and love her.

The insurance industry and its brethren in the tort reform world have argued that Abigaile’s compensation for lifelong disability, pain and suffering should be arbitrarily limited, despite what a jury of average citizens may decide. The question before the Illinois Supreme Court is whether the Illinois Constitution allows Abigaile’s rights to be limited in this fashion to the benefit of insurance company profits. Twice before, our state’s highest court has decided in favor of patients and against the insurance companies that would limit these rights to protect their own profits. No new arguments have been offered by the insurance industry.

These are the real issues when it comes to tort reform. The legal system is a place where all people are supposed to be on equal footing, all are equal in the eyes of the law, and tort reform is usually nothing but an attempt to tilt the playing field in favor of insurance companies and corporations.

But perhaps more importantly and most convincingly, Mr. Corboy points out the most glaring flaw of the WSJ article when he indicates

You argue that a reduction in malpractice premiums and the return of doctors to the state have resulted from the law containing caps. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not one case has been litigated under the new cap in Illinois. The simple fact is that those positive developments have resulted from strong, long-suppressed insurance reforms in the legislation. That law has now forced malpractice insurance companies to provide greater transparency on rate-setting and payouts that has in turn spurred competition, motivated more companies to enter the marketplace, and lowered premiums for doctors. Important to the discussion for your readers is the additional fact that Illinois’ largest malpractice insurer has reported that payouts have remained flat for the past 13 years. By the way, it’s the same insurance carrier that admitted during the run-up to this legislation in 2005 that capping awards would not guarantee lower premiums for its doctors.

Thanks to Mr. Corboy and others fighting to protect all people’s equal rights to the laws, the truth about tort reform is beginning to take shape.