To often, politics of the right and the left interfere with the stark reality of tort reform. In the past decade or so, conservatives have used "tort-reform" as a political "wedge issue" and have spent multi-millions of dollars to turn the public, and juries, against all Plaintiffs.
The article below was written by a self-described conservative Christian physician who deeply questions the politics of taking away justice from injured people in the name of politics and for the goal of profitting "big business."
This shows me that people are seeing that fairness and responsiblity are truly non-partisan issues, and that lawsuits, in and of themselves, are not "all bad." In fact, lawyers and lawsuits have often been all that stands between the public and harm.
Shouldn't companies and individuals who cause you harm be responsible for the damages they inflict?
You are probably aware of the lawsuits in the 1970s against Ford Motor Company and its Pinto automobile. Because of poor design, rear end crashes often caused the Pintos gasoline tank to explode into flames. Over 500 drivers lost their lives and thousands more were severely burned. Ford knew about this problem and that it would only cost $11 per car to repair but determined it was cheaper to pay the lawsuit settlements than recall the vehicles. Incredibly, Ford put their profits above the safety of their customers.
Because plaintiff attorneys were willing to file lawsuits on behalf of these injured individuals and families on a contingency basis and fight the multi-billion dollar Ford Motor Company, Ford paid hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments. Ford was also criminally charged with negligent homicide for having knowingly sold unsafe cars.
These lawsuits against Ford were based on product liability law which holds businesses responsible for any injuries caused by their products. The Ford lawsuits and resulting settlements sent a strong signal to the automobile industry. Safer cars have been the result.
Over the past decade, the Republicans in the Texas Legislature have passed a series of bills which have limited the liability of large corporations when they are found by a jury to have caused injury to their employees or their customers. This has me concerned and it should have you concerned as well.
Who wouldnt want limited liability for their actions? This is especially true of some large corporations which place their financial interests above the well being of their employees and customers.
Under current Texas law, it is hard to imagine that Ford Motor Company would have been required to pay out such a large amount of money in judgments as it did at that time.
Tort reform has dramatically limited the liability of businesses and individuals in Texas. The Texas Legislature has set limits on the amount that a business or individual can be required to pay in judgment to an injured party. No one likes the idea of frivolous lawsuits, but most individuals seem to agree that a remedy should be paid to an injured party commensurate with the damage.
Who does this current law benefit? It benefits the large corporations and the well financed who have deep pockets and the wherewithal to hire a bevy of defense attorneys. Their financial risk for shoddy workmanship and unsafe products has been dramatically reduced.
What about the small business owner or the individual with modest means? How will they afford the assistance of a lawyer to help them be fairly compensated for their losses?
As a physician and conservative, I have a healthy distrust for big government and big business. The conservative position requires accountability for actions. It appears to me that the pendulum for tort reform has swung too far in favor of big business.
Its time to remember the little guy.
by Steven Hotze, M.D.