Our top medical malpractice attorneys have often spoken out against so-called “tort reform.” These “reforms” generally have little to no impact on the costs of medical care or medical malpractice insurance premiums, while simultaneously taking away the rights and remedies of the victims of medical malpractice. We are fiercely opposed to proposals where, in the name of “reform,” the injured and their families are denied justice.
Now, not only are such “reforms” threatened on the state level, but Congress has made tort reform a federal problem. As part of Republican efforts to replace the recently enacted federal healthcare reform laws, Congress is currently considering H.R. 5, a devastating tort reform law that goes beyond medical malpractice. H.R. 5 is the largest component to date in Republican’s efforts to overhaul the health care overhaul.
If enacted, the bill would drastically curtail the rights of victims injured by medical malpractice and product liability at the hands of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies and other healthcare providers. H.R. 5 would place a cap on non-economic damages (such as compensation for pain and suffering or loss of quality of life) resulting from medical malpractice, limiting each victim to $250,000. The bill would also institute a nationwide, shortened statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. The medical malpractice lawyers of Passen & Powell are strongly opposed to these draconian measures.
Fortunately, this legislation faces substantial opposition from the states – even those with state legislatures that favor tort reform under state law. The National Conference of State Legislators has now spoken out against the bill, in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce health subpanel expressing its “strong, bipartisan opposition” to H.R. 5. The subpanel is currently holding hearings on the bill. The NCSL’s campaign against H.R. 5 will also include a series of meetings between Republican Congressmen and state legislators.
The NCSL’s “bipartisan” opposition (meaning even Republicans are opposed to the law) is based on the principle that each state should have the authority to set its own standards on medical malpractice, and to enact the reforms best-suited to the state. Indeed, as previously discussed in this blog, the Illinois Supreme Court, like other state supreme courts, struck down a similar state tort reform law as a violation of the state constitution.
Although we would have preferred a stronger statement on the futility and injustice of “tort reforms,” we support the NCSL in its opposition of H.R. 5. State “reform” efforts have been damaging enough to the rights of severely injured victims, and the families of the deceased. The last thing that is needed is a federal mandate preventing those who are injured from recovering from the wrongdoers. We join NCSL in its opposition, and hope that their efforts, and those of others, will successfully prevent this travesty from becoming federal law.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.