The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from WashingtonSpectator.

In an urgent phone call, Ralph Nader described a Republican tort law package that is being “rammed through the House” without proper hearings and almost no attention from the press. Any hearings on the bills have been pro forma, at best. But there has been some notable reporting, in the The Washington Post and Bloomberg News.

Often, “tort reform,” the protracted and persistent campaign to limit lawsuits against the powerful (obstructing individuals’ rights to sue corporate defendants, for example, or making it harder for victims of medical malpractice to sue physicians, hospitals, and nursing homes) is an arcane topic often avoided by the media.

The Trump administration’s attempt to destroy the EPA, gut the Clean Power Plan, define all 11 million undocumented residents of the country as deportable, and pass a massive tax cut for the wealthy while eliminating health insurance for 24 million Americans, are big, compelling and competing news stories.

‘The proponents of the legislation take big risks if the public finds out what they are doing.’

So it’s a challenge to get readers or viewers to invest five or 10 minutes in a story about Iowa Congressman Steve King’s “Protecting Access to Care Act.” King is not interested in ensuring that people in need of medical attention can see a doctor.

His bill caps medical malpractice damages at $250,000, even for catastrophic errors committed by physicians. An anesthesiologist miscalculates during routine surgery and leaves a child with severe brain damage and the family gets $250,000. An orthopedic surgeon botches an amputation (the story of a Florida surgeon amputating the wrong leg has been widely reported), and the victim receives no more than $250,000.

The deceptively captioned “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act” filed by Texas Congressman Lamar Smith reinstates a provision put in place in 1983 and abandoned in 1993, after federal judges and plaintiffs’ attorneys complained that it had a chilling effect on individuals filing lawsuits in federal courts. Fear of being sanctioned for filing a frivolous suit, it turns out, often discouraged lawyers from filing legitimate claims. According to a survey of 3,000 federal litigators, one in five lawyers reported abandoning valid claims because they feared sanctions.

“There are so many frivolous lawsuits, ruining people’s reputations, robbing people of their livelihoods,” Smith told The Washington Post.

While Smith is appealing to the American sense of justice, he’s also lying. When the Federal Judicial Center in 2005 surveyed federal judges, 85 percent of them opposed reinstating the 1983 law and described groundless litigation as a small problem, a very small problem, or no problem at all.

The Innocent Party Protection Act sponsored by Colorado Congressman Ken Buck does nothing to protect innocent parties. It does, however, allow defendants to move cases filed in state courts to federal courts, where corporations have an advantage because proceedings are more expensive, there are longer wait times for trials, and discovery is more limited.

There are four or five additional bills in this package of legislation advanced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, part of their long-game to rewrite the rules of civil jurisprudence so corporate clients cannot be held liable for their wrongdoing.

The House has passed similar bills in the past, but they died in the Senate where there was less interest in passing bills that would be vetoed by President Obama. Donald Trump was a frequent defendant in federal court, and will sign any tort reform bill that reaches his desk.

When the bills move to the Senate, the corporate lobby will need 60 votes and will target Democratic senators who face election in states Trump carried in 2018: Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bob Casey (Penn.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), and Bill Nelson (Fla.).

Opponents of the legislation are organizing grassroots campaigns focused on the same 10 senators. “The American public supports the civil justice system and the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial by wide margins,” consumer-protection attorney Pamela Gilbert told Bloomberg News. “The proponents of the legislation take big risks if the public finds out what they are doing.”

 

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Holocaust Memorial Group Excoriates RFK Jr Over Nazi Anti-Vax Rhetoric

Image via screengrab

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. continued to tarnish his family’s name with a speech at the anti-vaccine rally in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. Kennedy, who is suing Daily Kos over a user post reporting on his participation in an anti-mask rally in Germany that was organized and attended by Nazis, used Sunday’s high-profile (if not especially well-attended) event to … compare vaccination mandates to the Holocaust while spewing out a word salad of conspiracy theories.

“Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland, you could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did. I visited in 1962 East Germany with my father, and met people who had climbed the wall and escaped. So it was possible. Many died [inaudible], but it was possible,” Kennedy said to what The Washington Post described as a crowd that had begun drifting away. “Today, the mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so none of us can run and none of us can hide. Within five years, we’re going to see 415,000 low-orbit satellites. Bill Gates said his 65,000 satellites alone will be able to look at every square-inch of the planet 24 hours a day. They’re putting in 5G to harvest our data and control our behavior. Digital currency that will allow them to punish us from a distance and cut off our food supply.”

Keep reading... Show less

Spurs’ Coach Popovich Dunks On GOP, Manchin And Sinema Over Voting Rights

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The fact that not everyone in Texas is a far-right Republican was evident on Sunday, January 23, when San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was interviewed by reporters and spoke his mind about voting rights — slamming not only Republicans, but also, two centrist Democrats: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Before the Spurs’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers — the basketball team known for everyone from Julius Erving, a.k.a. Dr. J., to Allen Iverson — the 72-year-old Popovich told reporters:

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}