Let’s Talk about Legal Reform in Debates

By January 16, 2008Briefly Legal

We searched at vain through the transcripts of the Democratic presidential debate in Nevada and the recent Republican debate in South Carolina for discussion of legal reform. It’s not that we expected a sophisticated analysis of the Stoneridge case, but something …medical malpractice reform, at least?

MedPage Today did review candidates’ statements and position papers for a story, “Tort Reform Gets Short Shrift on Campaign Trail,” which pretty much says it.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 — Physicians who anticipate tort reform to decrease malpractice insurance premiums after the White House changes hands in November may well be disappointed.

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are no fans of caps on awards for pain and suffering, the measure most favored by the American Medical Association. Neither is John Edwards, who earned millions as a medical malpractice plaintiff attorney.

The leading Republican presidential candidates all bemoan the nation’s litigious climate. Most have supported tort reform measures, but they differ on the details.

Interesting fact: Before they became declared candidates, Clinton and Obama cowrote Before they officially became presidential candidates, the Illinois and New York senators co-authored an article in the May 25, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, “Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform.” Some good things…

On another front, congratulations to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, for vetoing a bill that would have expanded the state’s wrongful death statute, a bill that would have allowed claims for emotional harm.

“[U]nlimited damages … could have a significant impact on state and local budgets, since government entities are not infrequently named as defendants in wrongful death suits, and there are similar concerns as the State undertakes efforts to attract and grow businesses here.”

“Unfortunately, I do not believe that this bill in its current form strikes a fair balance that would avoid using a strict monetary valuation of a person’s life while also addressing the adverse effect of allowing unlimited and unpredictable damages.”

He urged the Legislature to consider alternatives “granting more flexibility for courts to reduce excessive non-pecuniary damage awards and defining non-pecuniary damages less expansively.”

(Hat tip: Overlawyered.com)

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