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Trying to regain PR footing on health care tort reform

Howard Dean unleashed a flood of commentary critical of the litigation industry when, at Rep. Jim Moran's town hall, he explained that Congress had left any tort reform provisions out of health care legislation because members did not want to take on politically powerful trial lawyers. (Overlawyered round-up here.)

The American Association for Justice has finally, belatedly, fought back by issuing what the AAJ terms "an analysis of scholarly research" but which appears to be a repackaging of existing materials arguing against medical liability limits. There is also commentary from the group's new president, Anthony Tarricone: "Patients' rights aren't bargaining chips. Considering 98,000 people die every year from medical errors, health care reform should first do no harm. The legal rights of injured patients simply can't be bargained away."

Limits on non-economic damages do not bargain away anyone's rights. They conceivably limit the trial lawyers' payday, however.

The AAJ posted the materials on its website on Friday under the headline, "Patients' Rights Aren't Bargaining Chips." (Friday? The Friday before Labor Day? Couldn't their PR people wait until 4 p.m. Christmas Eve?) The release also served as a media advisory, announcing a press briefing via teleconference on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

The only way the AAJ's briefing will be newsy is if President Obama announces his new acceptance of med-mal reform in that evening's speech to Congress. Maybe AAJ knows that policy shift is in the offing, in which case the briefing makes some sense. But if the President skips over tort reform, then he proves Howard Dean's point, doesn't he?

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.