As expected, the U.S. House of Representatives voted this week on the healthcare bill that included many so-called “tort reform” provisions. As our Illinois birth injury lawyers have often explained, the measure would have significant implications for those who suffer a birth injury caused by unreasonable conduct by their medical care provider. Medical malpractice lawsuits are the target of those who are pushing H.R. 5 and similar tort reform measures-that would include virtually all birth injury suits. Therefore, ensuring that local residents have open access to the justice system and medical providers are held accountable when they act unreasonably requires defeat of this bill.
The Thursday vote on H.R. 5, expectedly, resulted in the bill’s passage out of the chamber by a 223-181 vote. However, it is important not to focus solely on the raw vote total. As the American Association for Justice explained in an advocacy update on the bill, examined in perspective, the final vote actually brings some good news. H.R. 5 is supported by the Republican leadership, and they are often able to corral their members into supporting or opposing proposals. In this case, however, ten Republicans broke ranks with their party and voted against the measure. Another three voted “present” in a clear sign of their disproval for the bill. Also, the unity of the Democrats on this measure was the stronger than for any other civil justice bill. Only seven Democrats defected and voted in support of this bill.
The battle now moves to the Senate, where the Democrats are in control-albeit by a much slimmer margin. The AAJ explains that the strong No votes in the House will likely be an important factor in reminding Senators of the opposition to this measure. Even if the bill makes it out of the Senate, the President has already strongly indicated that he would veto the bill. In a policy statement on the measure issued this week it was reported unambiguously that, “If the President is presented with H.R. 5, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.” The letter also unequivocally voiced opposition to arbitrary caps on damages which prevent plaintiffs from receiving just compensation for injuries that they suffer.
Each birth injury attorney at our firm urges all those who understand the importance of equal access to a jury system to continue to monitor the progress of this bill. We will be sure to provide more updates as news develops on the measure’s progress in the chamber. Patient safety begins with accountability. Mothers and their new children have a right to expect reasonable care be provided to them at all times during the labor process. It is medical malpractice when they do not receive that level of care. Ensuring that future families do not face the same situation requires those medical providers to be held responsible for their conduct and incentivized to improve their care. H.R. 5, and bills like it, would do nothing more than take away that incentive. That is why they must be defeated.
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