Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Charlie Sykes article on Malpractice Caps

Charlie Sykes wrote this piece Thursday in CNI Newspapers, so I submitted this reply Sunday, which may or may not be published:

As a trial lawyer, I read with interest Charlie Sykes’ comments on the medical malpractice damage caps that were recently struck down by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Sykes premise that “Wisconsin is about to be a very popular place for lawyers who want fat malpractice awards without caps” is wrong. In the last 10 years, Wisconsin juries levied only nine awards exceeding the caps. Sykes and others who disdain trial lawyers want people to believe that we are most affected by caps, but the truth is that caps sadly affect the most disfigured and disabled people whose injuries include lost limbs, paralysis and brain damage. Due to caps, nine such patients did not get their day in court and did not collect what a jury of their peers felt was fair.

Legislative history shows that the caps were enacted in 1995 to “keep health care affordable and accessible.” However, we know this did not work as despite the lowest medical malpractice insurance premiums in the U.S., Wisconsin has the 2nd highest health care insurance premiums. Health insurance is expensive because, according to a report released by Rep. Paul Ryan, we have one of the most expensive health care systems in the country.

Fortunately, Justice Patrick Crooks recognized that people who have been wrongly injured deserve their day in court and that the “ceiling adopted by the legislature is unreasonable and arbitrary because it is not rationally related to the legislative objective.” Sykes calls this judicial activism and labels Crooks, who’s been supported by Republicans including Brookfield Rep. Scott Jensen, “a one-time conservative,” presumably because Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce disagreed with Crooks’ decision. However, Crooks was entirely consistent with conservative values.

Those who understand our civil justice system recognize that tort law is pro-life and pro-justice. Tort law affirms human dignity and the sanctity of life and promotes responsibility by holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions. At times, big businesses don’t want to be held accountable for damaged lives, but then again businesses in the U.S. file 400% more lawsuits than private citizens, so they are hypocritical in this. Thus, those who truly value human life and accountability see the hypocrisy and recognize that damage caps wrongfully take away an individual's right to get justice that improves the dignity and quality of life. Thankfully, Justice Crooks recognized this as well.

Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney