Tort reform advocates can be amazingly hypocritical. As our Chicago birth injury lawyers have often noted on this blog, birth injury lawsuits are often public enemy number one for those who want to take the power away from juries to decide damage awards. The reason is usually pretty straightforward: birth injury mistakes have consequences that last a lifetime and those consequences are expensive. Providing care for a child with cerebral palsy, erbs palsy, or any number of other preventable injuries can add up very quickly over a lifetime of decades. Those responsible for the errors (and the insurance companies that provide them coverage) would much rather not have to pay for the costs of their actions. Instead, they would often prefer that the victims have to scrounge without the resources they need. These chronic defendants would also have the taxpayers have to foot the bill for the basic care that these families would be provided by the public. At the end of the day it almost always comes down to not wanting to pay for the consequences of one’s actions.
Considering that personal responsibility is a classic conservative hallmark, it is surprising that many so-called political conservatives claim to support “tort reform” measures. No doubt the influence of deep-pocketed insurance companies and other interests have helped to persuade many of these conservatives on the issue.
The dangerous legislative proposals advanced by these politicians are frustrating enough. Even more infuriating is that in their personal lives many of these politicians demand access to a justice system rooted in the jury-a system that they are working to dismantle when in front of the cameras. Current Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum-a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania-epitomizes this doublespeak. Last year a medical malpractice lawyer uploaded a YouTube video discussing how the former Senator’s family seemed to have no trouble arguing for jury damages when it applied to their own family-even while the Senator was working to take away that right for other families.
The video explains how the Senator’s wife was injured by what the family deemed negligence on the part of their medical providers. As most would under the circumstances, the family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, damage caps in the state where the suit was filed arbitrarily limit the amount of money that a family can receive following these types of suit-regardless of the injury that resulted. These caps had been continually promoted and supported by Senator Santorum. Yet, facing the reality of these laws affecting his own family was apparently a different matter. In the suit the family attorney actually explicitly argued that the damage cap should not apply in their situation. Knowing that this argument would look bad publically, the family sought to have the court records of the situation sealed. The judge rightly rejected that argument, as the judicial system for the most part strives to be an open and honest place where information is not hidden. If politicians like Senator Santorum had their way, the justice system would be limited to all families expect his own. This hypocrisy should never be tolerated.
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