President Barack Obama, in his State of The Union speech Monday evening, made another reference to the supposed need for tort reform; to ‘control the rise in health care costs.’ I bristle at these kinds of mentions, for two reasons: 1) They demonstrate how successful liability insurers have been in their propaganda campaign to convince everyone from the person on the street to the President of the country, that increases in the cost of health care and in the cost of liability insurance, are due to “frivolous lawsuits.” 2) The average person who has not been the victim of medical negligence or has not known someone who has been a victim, has absolutely no idea of the impact that these draconian ideas of limiting a plaintiff’s financial recovery in court, will wreak on such victims’ lives.
And they need to know just how bad “tort reform” really is. Tort reform isn’t a single concept or one single law. Rather, it’s an amalgam of ideas and laws that are designed to drastically alter the way our civil justice system works. Many of these “tort reform” proposals would place “caps” on jury awards for pain and suffering, as well as death that results from a doctor’s or a hospital’s medical negligence. Arbitrary caps like this are a liability insurer’s dream – and an insult to anyone else who has suffered due to medical negligence. I’ve blogged previously about this subject, but it can’t be said enough: Arbitrary and formulaic caps on damages, and restrictions on certain types of lawsuits, represent a horrible assault on this nation’s civil justice system. Furthermore, since lawsuits are not a major factor in determining liability and medical malpractice premiums, these inequitable and unjust ideas will not reduce liability insurance premiums, or health care costs.
If anyone needs proof of just how unjust “tort reform” is in the real world, I offer the following. A Massachusetts medical malpractice case that was filed in Suffolk County a few years ago, and that settled this week, illustrates just how horrific some of these cases can be, and of how proposals to enact “caps” on jury awards and damages, are scathingly unjust. Consider the following facts in this case:
Rebecca Riley was little more than 2 years old when her parents, murderous animals by the names of Carolyn and Michael Riley, brought her to a psychiatrist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, a Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, claiming that Rebecca was supposedly ‘acting strangely.’ In fact, these two animals took not only Rebecca but her two siblings, (now 10 and 15,) to Dr. Kifuji, as part of a scheme to claim the children were psychiatrically ill, so the parents could collect federal disability checks for the children’s supposed mental disorders. Carolyn and Michael Riley were not any of these children’s biological parents – they were foster parents, paid by the state to care for the children. These living examples of human filth are now guests of the Massachusetts state prison system, having been convicted last year of Massachusetts murder charges (in separate trials) in Rebecca’s death.
Yes, these two individuals were twisted. But how and why did Rebecca Riley die? Because Dr. Kifuji, according to documents filed in the medical malpractice case against Kifuji and Tufts, diagnosed Rebecca – then little more than a 2 year-old child – as “bipolar”, based solely on her very first appointment with Rebecca, without conducting any background inquiry into other professionals such as Rebecca’s teachers or school nurse, and prescribed numerous and powerful psychiatric medications to be administered to her by her foster parents. Carolyn and Michael Riley then gave the child these medications, which led to her death.
I’ll discuss my opinion of just how stunning this medical malpractice was, in my next post.