Tort reform pushed by the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has always been a ruse. The game has always been to attack lawyers in order to disguise the real target: the citizen and the citizen’s inalienable rights. H.R. 1215 is the same animal. Dressed up as a bill to “protect” people’s access to healthcare, it does the opposite.
H.R. 1215 Would Severely Limit Courthouse Access
The duplicitously named “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017″ does everything BUT protect peoples’ access to healthcare. What it mostly does is severely limit a U.S. citizen’s access to the courtroom. It virtually wipes out class action lawsuits – whether for credit card fraud committed by a major bank, rank discrimination, negligence, or even outright criminality committed by any corporation. It also makes it all but financially impossible for a plaintiff’s law firm to pursue pharmaceutical drug or medical device cases for their injured or dead clients. All of this is done under the guise of saving money; but this bill doesn’t do that, either. Limiting a victim’s ability to collect fair and just compensation not only makes survival more difficult for that person, it also undermines any real accountability of the negligent party, the corporation. The U.S. Supreme Court erroneously granted corporations personhood with its unconscionable ruling in the duplicitously-named “Citizens United” case. The rancid H.R. 1215 bill takes that catastrophe a step further, moving us all further down the road to complete corporate servitude.
Make no mistake: the end game is clear. Like the Trump juggernaut, this bill moves under the guise of a populist movement which pretends that it will help people. But the people ARE the target, and this new war is the same as the old: It’s corporate power vs. people power. If you have not figured that out yet, God help us all.
H.R. 1215 Violates the Constitution
The Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a U.S. citizen’s right to a civil trial by jury. Despite all its phony language about “protecting” people, H.R. 1215 works in direct violation of that right.
What is the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017?
The summary of the bill, H.R. 1215, reads: “To improve patient access to health care services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.” In short, this is a bill designed to take away your rights to a jury trial, and to limit how much compensation an injury victim can collect.
Medical Errors are 3rd Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in this country. So how are your rights being “protected” if we limit your compensation? Is your child’s life worth just $250,000? According to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan it is. This bill will not only not “protect” you and your family. It will also destroy any incentive that the medical industry has to actually fix that problem. What has happened in Texas with its Draconian “tort reform” will open the door to that happening all over the country. H.R. 1215 will preempt your state’s laws that would formerly protect you from the kinds of things that have happened to Texas patients with their many perverted, imprisoned doctors, which the state’s twisted Tort Reform enables.
What damage caps will H.R. 1215 put into place?
The new bill places no caps on economic damages, a small silver lining in a black cloud. It will, however, drastically limit the amount of non-economic damages you may be able to collect – and in a sneaky way, too. From the bill (excerpts in bold are ours):
“In any health care lawsuit, the amount of noneconomic damages, if available, shall not exceed $250,000, regardless of the number of parties against whom the action is brought or the number of separate claims or actions brought with respect to the same injury.
“The jury shall not be informed about the maximum award for noneconomic damages. An award for noneconomic damages in excess of $250,000 shall be reduced either before the entry of judgment, or by amendment of the judgment after entry of judgment, and such reduction shall be made before accounting for any other reduction in damages required by law.
“In any health care lawsuit, each party shall be liable for that party’s several share of any damages only and not for the share of any other person. Each party shall be liable only for the amount of damages allocated to such party in direct proportion to such party’s percentage of responsibility.”
More Problems with H.R. 1215
Damage caps have always been a problem, but we have deeply-rooted concerns about the rest of the bill. H.R. 1215 also stands to:
- Eliminate the class-action lawsuit
- Make all healthcare claims federal claims, thus eliminating states’ laws
- Allow insurance companies to pay claims via payments, not all at once
Soft targets of the bill, plaintiff attorneys – who fight for injured people – will have their fees arbitrarily limited. Defense attorneys – who represent the corporations that caused harm – have no such limits placed on their pay. The surgeon who hacked off the wrong leg, or the intern who mislabeled a chart and killed someone with a drug overdose, or the doctor who missed your cancer diagnosis? Their “defense” attorneys can charge whatever they want.
Why H.R. 1215 is bad for injured people and their families
This Congressional bill aims to fix a “crisis” that even medical malpractice insurers say does not exist. The Doctors Company, one of the country’s largest medical malpractice insurance providers, says, “Doctors are paying less for malpractice insurance than they did in 2001 – without any inflation adjustment. (And) the rate of claims has dropped by half since 2003.”
Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, including years of studies, research, data collection and other hard evidence, this Congress continues to perpetuate the lie that limiting the civil justice system, in terms of which kinds of lawsuits you can bring and in how much money an injured person can collect, will do anything at all to save money when it comes to health care.
All so-called “tort reform” has ever done is hurt more people more often. The Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 essentially says that it doesn’t matter how severe, how catastrophic, your injuries are. Your life is worth $250,000, end of story. Is that what your life is worth? How about your child’s life? If it costs a plaintiff’s attorney $250,000 to put together a medical malpractice case (and it typically costs at least that much), and the highest possible payout is $250,000, do you think you will be able to find an attorney to represent you?
What is Your Life or Injury Worth?
If a surgeon accidentally nicks your wife’s artery and she dies during back surgery, is that worth only $250,000 for you and your family?
If a doctor fails to recommend an emergency C-section because the umbilical cord is wrapped around your unborn baby’s neck, and your child suffers permanent brain damage that requires lifetime nursing care running into the millions of dollars, is that worth just $250,000 to you?
If a doctor prescribes the wrong medication to your spouse and it kills him, is that worth just $250,000?
U.S. Senate Could Destroy Your Rights with H.R.1215
Whether you have ever needed a medical malpractice or a personal injury attorney or not, you would be wise to contact your U.S. Senators today and tell them to vote “No” on H.R. 1215. The only ones who will benefit from this bill are the corporations that cause people harm.
Matthews & Associates, meanwhile, will continue to fight against this obscenity of a bill. We have always fought for the individuals’ rights against the corporation that harmed them. We are lawyers working for people. We don’t work for corporations, ever.
To learn more about our services, contact us at any time. Call or email for a free legal consultation.