Insurance companies, drug companies and others push hard to get laws passed reducing the rights of people to sue when others injure them. In 2005, for medical negligence cases, the Missouri Republican-led legislature and Republican governor made a law saying that people injured by their health care could get no more than $350,000 for nonmonetary harm, like emotional and physical pain. In 2012 the Missouri Supreme Court said that the law was invalid under the Missouri Constitution’s protection of the right to trial by jury because it took away the jury’s power to decide what money to put in verdicts for nonmonetary harm. Whether or not the Supreme Court’s decision applies to cases where careless medical care causes death is up in the air.
It is still legal for trial judges and the courts of to fix unjust damage awards, on a case by case basis. Most of the so-called outrageous jury verdicts people have heard about are either corporate propaganda or were later reduced by the trial judge or the courts of appeals.
Doctors understandably complain high insurance rates, but research has shown that increases in insurance rates are largely caused by insurance companies trying to make up losses from bad investments, not from increases in liability pay-outs. Some critics say that caps get rid of “frivolous lawsuits,” but the caps only affect lawsuits with big non-monetary losses, not frivolous claims.
We believe most so-called “tort reform” is just a form of protection for insurance companies. Big business wants to hold on to its money, and hates anything — like lawsuits, government regulation, and taxes — that takes its money away. Trial lawyers are attacked by big business because trial lawyers are one of the few groups with the power and interest to challenge them.
We hope you will let your legislators and the media know that you do not support restrictions on the rights of victims of carelessness. If regular folks do not fight back, their rights will be taken away.