Testimony Before Legislature

Yesterday I had the opportunity to testify before a group of state legislators interested hearing debate about a bill designed to limit the ability of patients to file medical malpractice lawsuits and recover adequate compensation when they do.

The bill, HB 2122, includes a provision that would give a defendant tortfeasor the right to reduce the damages awarded by the jury by the amount of life insurance paid for by the decedent, the disability insurance paid for by the plaintiff, the social security benefits received by the decedent’s family or the injured person, and worker’s compensation benefits.

It would also wipe out subrogation interests for every insurer who paid benefits to medical negligence victims. Indeed, it even attempts to eliminate subrogation interests for Tenncare, Medicare, and ERISA-based subro claims. Hmmm.

But it is worse than that. The bill also provides for periodic payments of future damages over $75,000. The kicker: if you die before the money runs out the defendant gets to keep the money. If you live longer than the payout plan expected you to live, the defendant does not have to continue the payments. One exception: damages for future loss of income would be paid to your spouse and surviving minor children, if any.

It also allows the jury that heard the case to determine that the lawsuit (or defense) was “frivilous” and award costs and attorneys’ fees against the offender.

And, by the way, there is a $250,000 cap on human (read “non-economic”) losses.

The House bill is up for hearing on April 19 in the House Judiciary Committee. Call your legislator (especially if he or she is on this committees.)

When you talk to your legislator, tell them that according to the National Institute of Health 98,000 people a year die from malpractice in hospitals alone. In Tennessee, that means that 19-20 people in the district of every state representative and 59-60 people in each senate district die from malpractice. Every year.

The problem with medical malpractice is malpractice. Until the health care industry is willing to work to prevent injury and death and discipline repeat offenders the malpractice problem will not go away. Reducing the rights of medical malpractice victims does nothing except line the pockets of insurance companies.