H.R. 1215: Congressional Tort Reform Designed to Destroy Your Rights

March 8, 2017 | Crandall & Pera Law
H.R. 1215: Congressional Tort Reform Designed to Destroy Your Rights

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"] Gavel on a book

We’ve spoken quite a bit about tort reform in the past, and the dangers it poses to victims of serious personal injuries and medical malpractice. We’ve fought it in the state legislatures in Ohio and Kentucky, when such bills came up, and we’ve fought it in the court of public opinion, too. Limiting a victim’s ability to collect fair and just compensation not only makes it more difficult for that person to survive, but it undermines any real accountability that the negligent party has.

It should come as no surprise, then, that we will proudly fight against federal attempts to cave into the corporations at the expense of their victims. The Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees your right to a civil trial by jury. For all the masquerading that H.R. 1215 does, at its core, it is in violation of your Constitutional rights.

What is the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017?

You can read the full text here, but let’s start with the summary of the bill, H.R. 1215, itself: “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, it’s a bill designed to take away your rights to a jury trial, and to limit how much compensation an injury victim can collect.

Remember: medical errors are the third leading cause of death in this country. This new bill will destroy any incentive that the medical industry has to actually fixing that problem.

What damage caps will H.R. 1215 put into place?

The new bill places no caps on economic damages, a small silver lining on a thunderstorm 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 were emphasized by us):

  • “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.”

Additional concerns about the bill

Damage caps have always been a problem, but we have deeply-rooted concerns about the rest of the bill, as well. H.R. 1215 also stands to:

  • Eliminate the class-action lawsuit

  • Make all healthcare claims federal claims, thus eliminating any states’ individual laws

  • Allow insurance companies to pay out claims via payments, as opposed to all at once

It is worth noting, perhaps, that plaintiff attorneys – those of us who fight for victims – will have their fees limited, but defense attorneys – those who represent the negligent parties who caused you harm – have no such limitations placed on their salaries. In other words, the doctor who missed your cancer diagnosis, or the nurse who mislabeled your chart and caused a drug overdose, or the surgeon who perforated your bowel but didn’t fix it in time: their attorneys can charge whatever they want.

Why is H.R. 1215 bad for victims and their families?

This Congressional bill aims to fix a “crisis” that even medical malpractice insurers say does not exist, and has not existed for more than a decade. According to Cincinnati.com, 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 WEALTH of evidence to the contrary, including years’ worth of studies, research, data collection, and so on, 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 a victim can collect, will do anything at all to save money when it comes to health care.

It won’t. It never has. It never will. All tort reform has EVER done is hurt people more. The Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 essentially says that it doesn’t matter how severe, how catastrophic, your injuries are: they’re worth $250,000 – period. We understand that for a lot of people, that seems like a lot of money. So, we want to ask you this:

If a surgeon accidentally amputates your arm when he was supposed to be fixing a tendon in your leg, is that only worth $250,000?

If a doctor fails to recommend an emergency C-section because the umbilical cord is wrapped around your baby-to-be’s neck, and now your child has permanent brain damage, is that only worth $250,000?

If a doctor prescribes the wrong dose of medication to your spouse and it kills him or her, is that only worth $250,000?

We urge everyone, whether you have had need of a medical malpractice or personal injury attorney or not, to please contact your Representatives and tell them to vote “No” on H.R. 1215. The only ones who will benefit from this bill are the ones who caused you harm.

In the meantime, Crandall & Pera Law will continue to fight against this egregious bill. We will not back down and we will not give up. Our team has always fought to give a voice to the voiceless, and to protect the rights and futures of the injured. You can rely on us to do the same now.

To learn more about Crandall & Pera Law’s services, please contact us at any time. You can reach our team of Ohio lawyers at 877.686.8879 and our team of Kentucky attorneys at 877.651.7764.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]