Abuse and Exposing Frivolous Lawsuits
Issue 30 - August
In this Edition:
Legal Reform: Sick
of High Medical Costs? Look To the Courtrooms
Tort Du Jour: Arsonists Sue for Insurance Payoff
Testimony: Judicial Probe looking at Big Jury Awards
Testimony: Legal Reform is a Patient Issue
Why Are Medical Costs
So High? Courtrooms Are a Culprit
Why do medical costs keep climbing?
Some look to the doctor's office
or the hospital or their medicine cabinet, but few think to look
to the courtroom.
Increasingly, civil cases -
including frivolous lawsuits and massive class actions - are
driving up health care costs and making Americans less healthy.
Unfounded lawsuits and excessive
malpractice and liability awards not only boost health care costs,
but also raise the price of insurance for health care providers
and patients. As premiums increase, increasing numbers of people
are unable to afford the cost of insurance.
According to Sickoflawsuits.org,
nearly 41 million Americans are now uninsured and, a given year,
another 30 million will lack coverage for some extended period
People who lack insurance coverage
are less likely to seek treatment. Those who do seek treatment
while uninsured are much more likely to seek care in emergency
rooms, thus driving the cost of medicine even higher. A vicious
Patients who are wrongly injured
or mistreated by health care providers should -- of course --
have recourse to the courts, but even objective observers agree
that the situation has gotten out of hand.
As the Washington Post has
editorialized: "As to the right to sue, our preference is
to keep the practice of medicine as far from the courts and the
predatory instincts of some of the trial bar as possible... the
threat of a lawsuit should not be what governs health care in
Over the past 20 years, personal
injury lawyers have found litigation against health care providers
and pharmaceutical manufacturers to be a lucrative "growth
area." This has enriched a handful of lawyers, but adversely
affected both the quality and cost of care for the rest of us,
as the cost of defending against malpractice and liability lawsuits
is inevitably passed on to the consumer.
According to a recent study
by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, simply limiting
unreasonable jury awards could cut health care costs by 5-9 percent,
saving $70-$126 billion each year. This would help an additional
2.4-4.3 million Americans to afford medical insurance.
Moreover, the impacts go beyond
awards and settlements in high-profile cases.
In a survey conducted last
year by Harris Interactive, 79 percent of doctors said that,
in an effort to prevent possible lawsuits, they had ordered more
tests than medically needed. This practice of so-called "defensive
medicine" is estimated to cost patients $50 billion per
Not only are physicians and
hospitals affected, but the cost and availability of prescription
drugs and medical devices are also under the gun. Frivolous litigation
chills new discoveries and may lead to the withdrawal of beneficial
Take the case of Titus Simonini,
whose case has been brought to national attention by Orange County
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. Titus has hydrocephalus and needs
a silicon brain implant just to survive. However, because of
lawsuits against silicone manufacturers, fewer and fewer companies
are willing to make the shunts that sustain his life.
Each year, over 7.5 million
lives are saved or improved by implantable medical devices. Yet,
due to the threat of liability, 75 percent of suppliers of biomaterials
used to make medical implants banned sales to U.S. manufacturers.
Although the Biomaterials Assurance Assistance Act of 2000 attempted
to resolve this, many medical device manufacturers have chosen
to remain overseas.
These problems, bad as they
are, somehow seem worse when once considers that much of the
litigation is not being pursued by sick or injured patients.
Take the case of the drug Baycol. As Dr. Scott Gottlieb told
the New York Times in February: "Bayer is facing more than
8,000 lawsuits after its widely used cholesterol-lowering drug
Baycol was withdrawn from the market. At least 6,000 of those
suits, however, are being filed by people who did not suffer
any side effects whatsoever."
Litigation filed by relatively
healthy people is not only driving medical costs through the
roof, it is also crowding the courts and making it harder for
actual victims of bad care to get the compensation that is due
Du Jour: Arsonists Sue for Insurance Payoff
"Two Alpena, Michigan
men set an arson fire in their store with the hope of collecting
insurance money. They admitted that they intended to simply have
a small, smoky fire that would damage their inventory, which
apparently wasn't selling very well, so they could collect on
their insurance policy. However, when the fire spilled over into
the adjoining store, the men sued the insurance company. They
argued that they set the fire in their own store, but that the
fire next door was accidental and therefore they should receive
coverage for the damage to the other building. A panel of the
state Court of Appeals amazingly reversed the trial court's decision
to dismiss this ridiculous case, but the Michigan Supreme Court,
in a unanimous decision, eventually reversed the Court of Appeals
and ruled that the fire 'cannot be characterized as an accident.'"
-as reported by Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch at http://www.mlaw.org
probing possible judicial corruption in South Mississippi, also
are looking into multi-million dollar jury awards in Jefferson
County... The FBI has subpoenaed records from Bankston Drug Store,
a small business that has been a defendant in several lawsuits
against pharmaceutical companies. Instead of suing only the drug
makers, lawyers often sue drugstores and doctors in a legal maneuver
to keep cases in state courts, which have been more apt to award
large verdicts than federal courts."
-"The Biloxi Sun Herald,
Thursday, June 12, 2003, available online at http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/6070078.htm
"This excessive litigation is leading to higher health care
costs for every American and instability for our healthcare providers...
Medical liability reform is no longer a Republican vs. Democrat
issue, or even a doctor vs. lawyer issue. It is now a patient
-U.S. Senator John Ensign
(R-NV) at http://ensign.senate.gov/issues/medical_liability.htm