July 2011

Tort Reform Lobbyist Publishes Disingenuous Assessment of Medical Malpractice Caps

The August 2011 edition of the Journal of the American College Obstetrics & Gynecology features a misleading commentary piece on the effects of medical malpractice reform in Mississippi. The article was written by Mark Behrens, an attorney at the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, counsel to the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and advisor to the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Jul 24, 2011 12:00 AM

Tort Reformers Use Small Businesses, Hard Economic Times to Hide True Agenda

Recently we have seen a push by tort reformers to take advantage of hard economic times to further their agenda to undermine the civil justice system. Today, The Washington Post ran an op-ed by American Tort Reform Association President Sherman “Tiger” Joyce on the unfounded claim that small businesses are negatively affected by lawsuits. The majority of Joyce’s op-ed was copied and pasted right out of the corporate tort reform playbook.

While Joyce claims to be watching out for the best interests of small businesses, he fails to admit that ATRA has been funded by tobacco, chemical, oil, and insurance companies – all who have the most to gain by preventing everyday Americans from accessing the courts and holding these wrongdoers accountable.

ALEC Exposed Shines a New Light on Shadowy Organization

In recent days, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has received renewed attention for its mission to whisk state legislators to resort hotels where they are wined and dined by corporate representatives and leave with parting gifts of business-friendly model legislation to introduce in their state houses. Though the story of how ALEC operates has been told many times before, this week’s exposé picks up where a report released by the American Association for Justice last year left off by asking an important question: is ALEC in violation of federal tax law?

Andrew Cohen on the Effects Caps Have on the Ability of Judges and Juries to Deliver Justice

This morning in The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen wrote on the real world effects caps on damages have on the victims of tragedies and the ability of judges and juries to deliver justice. Here are a few key points from Cohen’s piece:

“The Lichtman decision identifies and illustrates the sort of raw pain caused in California in 2011 as a result of the votes of federal lawmakers in Washington in 1997 …

“… It is one of the most interesting and important legal opinions of the year because in it you see the true cost of "tort reform" and, on a larger scale, the real cost of the nation's current crest of corporatism. Here you have innocent victims whose rights and liberties were limited so that corporations could have litigation certainty. Here you have an honorable American judge hamstrung by statute to do right to the litigants before him. Justice in America in tort cases does not have to be, as the judge said, a "Sophie's Choice" Yet in many respects it is.”

“… The next time a politician shouts "tort reform" in your face, tell her or him to go spend a day with the victims and survivors of the Chatsworth crash, to live in their world for just a few hours, before talking again about why it makes sense to continue to give to the rich at the expense of the poor.”

Cap Leaves Train Crash Victims, Taxpayers with a $64Million Bill for Damages

On September 12, 2008, a Metrolink  train engineer, distracted by text messages, ran a red signal and collided head-on with a freight train, leaving 24 dead and over 100 injured.

The victims of this crash suffered a second tragedy when the foreign company responsible cowered behind an arbitrary law that grants them immunity from full accountability. The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 places a cap on the amount a rail corporation can be held accountable for in a crash, regardless of the circumstance of the crash or the number of victims.  Due to this cap, the fund created for the victims comes up $64 million short.  

Study Finds “July Effect” Disastrous to Patient Safety

Yesterday, the Annals of Internal Medicine released a study on the “July effect,” in which the turnover of physicians-in-training at teaching hospitals is linked to an increase in medical errors and patient mortality compared to the months before the academic year ends. With a class of new, inexperienced doctors taking the place of those with more training, the month of July has serious effects on patient safety.

AAJ Announces Gary M. Paul as President for 2011-2012

AAJ is excited to announce Gary M. Paul as the new president. Mr. Paul, a partner at Waters, Kraus & Paul in Los Angeles, Calif., will led AAJ in its continued mission to ensure Americans have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system. 

He has over three decades of trial experience in diverse civil matters such as consumer product liability, medical negligence, and employment law.  Mr. Paul has also previously served as the president of both the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and the Consumer Attorneys of California.  

Below, watch Mr. Paul’s message to members, and read AAJ’s full statement here.

Texas woman victim of serious medical error

Grace Kehinde of Katy, Texas, suffered serious medical complications due to a surgery she underwent almost 10 years ago. A sharp surgical instrument was left inside of Ms. Kehinde during a Caesarean section in July 2001, and the error wasn’t discovered until last year when Ms. Kehinde was in severe pain and went to the hospital. 

WaPo: High court highlights a gap in drug safety regulation

As a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Pliva v. Mensing, The Washington Post published a great editorial highlighting the ramifications of this decision on patient safety in the burgeoning generic drug industry.

NYT: Lawsuit Says Drugs Were Wasted to Buoy Profit

Today, The New York Times reported that DaVita, the nation’s largest provider of kidney dialysis, intentionally wasted medicine to get extra payments from Medicare.  This information comes from a lawsuit filed by former employees at a clinic owned by DaVita that alleges the company changed the level of vials used in dialysis after Medicare changed the method it pays per treatment.