It’s been a while since I last posted but I was pre-occupied with a trial and I return to my office to find welcome news in the mail. Today I found a recent report from the Cato Institute, a right wing conservative think tank, that has confirmed what this blog has long held, namely, that caps on medical malpractice (or other tort claim) awards is a mistake! It is unusual to hear this coming from a right wing think tank since it is generally the province of Republicans and right-wingers to fight for tort reform. Nevertheless, their report has indicated that “caps unfairly shift the costs of malpractice injuries from negligent providers to their victims.” The study further states that “reducing physician liability for negligent care by capping court awards, all else equal, will reduce the resources allocated to medical professional liability underwriting and oversight and make many patients worse off”.
This last sentence is critical. The accountability that medical malpractice and personal injury lawsuits provide is the one last defense that many consumers have from being unfairly harmed through the negligence of others. Capping damages not only invites increased negligence it denies adequate resources to those severely injured through the negligence of others.
Consider that the FDA has a long record of failing to keep unsafe food out of the distribution change and unsafe drugs from the pharmacy counters. They simply lack the resources and the personnel to ensure the safety of all of the consumer products under their protective umbrella. If tort reform were to interfere with the ability to bring lawsuits against negligent companies, then we are not far from welcoming products such as Chinese dry wall, toxic food, and dangerous drugs into the market without proper oversight.
The study found that while “supporters of capping court awards for medical malpractice argue that caps will make health care more affordable” that the actual case “may not be that simple. First, caps on awards may result in some patients not receiving adequate compensation for injuries they suffer as a result of physician negligence. Second, because caps limit physician liability, they can also mute incentives for physicians to reduce the risk of negligent injuries . . . .”
It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work in the future!