New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Political Action, tort reform


November 18th, 2006

Will the election results curb tort "reform"?

I put “reform” in quotes for a reason. Because those that tout such reform are really interested in granting various forms of protection and immunities to those who have caused injury to others. Reform generally means an improvement, but those with a political agenda to reduce the rights of the injured have reversed the meaning.

The election of Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate seems certain to have an effect on those who had championed corporate protections against law suits. As the National Law Journal notes in this November 16, 2006 piece:

So-called tort reform is just one of a number of legal agenda issues likely to be placed on the back burner or to undergo redefinition when the new Congress begins in January.

The House Judiciary Committee under Republican control has been a reliable source of tort system-related legislation, including medical malpractice liability limits, new sanctions on attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits, proposed constitutional amendments on a variety of contentious social issues, and efforts to limit what some of its members believe are unaccountable and activist federal judges. A good number of those proposals have been adopted by the Republican House only to be blocked in the narrowly divided, yet Republican-controlled Senate.

That part of the Republican agenda that carries this banner of reform has always smacked of hypocrisy to me. The party, after all, repeatedly claims to champion personal responsibility for one’s acts. Yet in this arena they have done the exact opposite — asking that protections be granted to corporations or physicians so that they would not be held responsible for their negligent or reckless acts. I can only think of one reason for this hypocritical position. In the arena of our tort system, it seems that campaign contributions carry more weight than political philosophy.

On my web site, I put together a page of materials regarding changes to our civil justice system that have been advocated by some. It is a subject I expect to return to in the future.

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