The New York State Bar Association took a strong stand against tort reform last Friday. President Michael Getnick issued a statement calling on the U.S. Senate to reject calls for caps on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases as part of health care reform. Here is the press release:
ALBANY, NY (11/13/2009)(readMedia)– New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City), in a letter today, called on the U.S. Senate to reject any proposals that would discriminate against medical malpractice victims while also jeopardizing public safety by capping the amount of compensation that victims could receive for pain and suffering. Such proposals have been raised in the debate over national health care reform legislation.
In his letter to U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand, President Getnick restated the State Bar’s long-held position that the authority to change medical liability laws should rest with the states and not the federal government.
"As Senate activity on this topic continues, I want to reiterate our long standing objections to those tort and medical malpractice reform proposals that have resurfaced as part of the current debate," wrote Getnick. "We object to legislation to cap pain and suffering compensation for victims of medical malpractice. Such caps would unjustly discriminate against classes of accident victims who suffer devastating physical and psychological losses.
"For over 200 years the authority to promulgate medical liability laws has rested with the states, which are the repository of experience and expertise in these matters," Getnick noted in the letter. "I am pleased that the House, in passing Bill 3962, The Affordable Health Care for America Act, refrained from including provisions advocated by some members that would have resulted in federal tort laws encroaching upon the authority of the states."
Getnick noted that legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives would provide for incentive payments to states that adopt alternative medical liability laws without imposing caps on damages and other unacceptable measures. According to Getnick, providing such incentive payments to states is an appropriate alternative to proposals that would impair the ability of victims to seek remedy in the justice system.
"In assessing the current tort system, it is at least as important to consider the victims of malpractice in comparison to those who cause them personal injury," he said. "We have seen in the past that the attack of tort reformers is a movement that favors cost savings over quality and that emphasizes the corporate bottom line over safety of the public.
"As the health care debate progresses with you and your colleagues in the Senate we strongly urge Congress to focus on health care problems and to ensure that the individual victims of medical malpractice are not placed in a secondary position as compared to those who have created the very victims from which they seek protection in the name of tort reform," Getnick concluded.
A copy of the letter can be found here. This very public support for the civil justice system and the rights of those injured by medical malpractice should be applauded and endorsed by Bar Associations across the country. In addition, all citizens interested in preserving their rights should contact their senators and convey the same message.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.