The Republican dream bill knows euphemistically as Tort Reform passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives Wednesday, March 4, 2009 — “a day that will live in infamy.” If you take time to read the bill, it reads like Republican porn. There are so many things in this bill that makes it easy for Big Business to screw the Regular Joe/Jane that, if signed by the governor, there will be a nasty orgy of malpractice and manufacturing defects without the prophylactic of meaningful lawsuits to keep things safe.
OK, so maybe I’m carrying this analogy a little far, but I am absolutely furious at the sheer, unadulterated disregard by these so-called “patriots” of the individual right to redress grievances in court.
Let me just address a few of the fun things you will find in this bill.
In the case of medical malpractice, the bill bars the admission as evidence the defendant’s (physician’s) unfavorable peer review and credentialing information. So basically, if that physician has had any disciplinary actions taken against him by a medical board, you cannot use that in court as background for your case. If this is the case, then should we not use prior crimes against a criminal defendant to determine sentencing?
The bill imposes federal standards for the determination of liability. What this means is if a federal agency has already approved a product, then that product becomes immune from liability lawsuits. This probably put the pharmaceutical companies in an extremely happy mood.
The bill also caps noneconomic damages to $300,000. Noneconomic damages are also called “pain and suffering.” Pain and suffering can include death. It should make every Oklahoman proud to know that these legislators have placed a value on their lives. Each one of you is only worth, at the maximum, $300,000. Now, folks, there are times in my life when I have made my wife mad enough that she would tell you my life wasn’t worth a plug nickel. However, being my wife, she has that right!
The bill also has a stipulation in it that exempts manufacturers and dealers from suits stemming from the use of firearms. This is a touchy subject, I know, and I am a firm believer in the right to bear arms, but this provision is downright irresponsible. The gun lobby has resisted each and every attempt to require added safety features on firearms. In the state of Oklahoma, the gun lobby has no worries. Also, I cannot help but wonder if a dealer would be exempt from a suit in which the dealer sold a gun to a person with a criminal record, did not follow the waiting period laws, and that firearm was used to injure or kill an innocent in the commission of a crime.
Folks, this bill is purely political. Republican legislators have for years attempted to turn “trial lawyer” into a four-letter word. The main reason for this is that the trial lawyer lobby has traditionally supported Democrats. If this bill could break the financial back of trial attorneys, Democrats would get less campaign funding and, ergo, Republicans would have a greater chance of gaining and staying in power.
One thing I cannot stomach is that the author of this bill, Rep. Dan Sullivan (R-Tulsa), has stated that mandating insurance companies to cover the treatment of children with autism would be government interfering with the way a company does business. This same legislator is now trying to interfere with the way lawyers do business. I guess if you don’t get money from one special interest group, you’re allowed to impose mandates on them. But if you give generously to a Republican or the Republican party, well then, you are exempt from legislative interference.
The only thing missing from the pro-tort reform arguments is the cheesy porn music.