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Obama on Medical Malpractice Reform and Health Care

So we all know that President Obama is talking about some type of Health Care reform in America.  I can tell you from years of representing those injured in car accidents, here in Raleigh and across the state of North Carolina, that we need some type of health care reform.  The folks that need coverage the most often can not get it.  And small businesses (even law firms) see their premiums rise EVERY YEAR.  My health insurance premiums for my firm have gone up nearly 10% every year for the past 8 years.

So as part of the political debate, Obama is talking about changing health insurance, but he is also talking about medical malpractice reform.  Some of my fellow trial lawyers are getting stirred up because we don't think that extending coverage of health care ought to also limit an injured person's access to justice.

Here are some links which discuss Obama's comments in the last few days:

Obama Talks Up Liability Reform
In Pitch to AMA, Obama Paints Mixed Picture
Washington Post
Cost Concerns as Obama Pushes Health Issue
New York Times
Obama Calls Cost of Healthcare a Threat to Economy
Chicago Tribune/LA Times,0,1354461.story
I tend to agree with the gist of the Politico article:  Obama has to keep all options on the table and speak in terms that ever player in the debate feels are near and dear to their interests.

I think the debate will be rational, and because of that I think that the data which show that very little of the overall cost of health care has anything to do with malpractice lawsuits will not be ignored.  There are things that can be done to decrease the cost of lawsuits.  Call it reform or not, that's up to you.

I commonly request that each side to a malpractice suit be limited in the number of expert witnesses who can be used on a certain subject.  Almost universally the lawyers for the Doctors will not voluntarily limit the number of expert witnesses.  This increases the costs to defend these suits.  There is one liability reform I'm fine with implementing.

Chris Nichols 1.800.906.5984

Terrible News for Wake County: Garner ConAngra Foods plant explosion

CNN and WRAL are reporting that two people were found dead and a third person is still believed missing in a Garner food plant heavily damaged in a morning explosion.

Four people were in critical condition after the explosion at the ConAgra Foods plant in the town of Garner and 20 others were taken to area hospitals.  It appears that the worst of the injured suffered severe burns.
This is an unwelcome and sadly familiar feeling for our area after the plant explosion in Apex. 
I noticed in my search on the Internet for news about the explosion that law firms from out of the  state of North Carolina are already posting about the explosion.  I hope that these posts are part of an overall reporting of industrial accidents rather than simply an attempt to attract business. Even with law, the idea of "buying local" makes sense.
Thankfully, Raleigh and Garner have many talented lawyers experienced in industrial fires and explosions and the claims resulting from them.  As anyone from North Carolina can tell you, the worst industrial accidents was the fire at Imperial Foods chicken processing plant in Hamlet in 1991.
According to official reports, twenty-five (25) people died and another forty-nine (49) were injured as the result of a fire in the Imperial chicken processing plant. Witnesses at the scene described that workers could not get out of exit that were padlocked by the plant management to prevent vandalism and theft.
There is an excellent article on the investigation and eventual prosecution of the owner of the Hamlet plant on Wikipedia found here.
I sincerely hope that the ConAgra Plant had no safety violations like the Hamlet Plant.
Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry for Hamlet says that some of the Hamlet fire victims hired an out of state lawyer  who handled the Bhopal chemical disaster in India but that that lawyer did not qualify to practice in North Carolina.
I send thoughts and prayers to the families of the injured and killed.
Chris Nichols
Raleigh, NC 1.800.906.5984