When we launched ThisMakesMeSick, we hoped not only to inform our audience about medical liability issues, but also to provide a forum that sparked rants and dialogue and questions and concerns. We know thousands of people check out the site, but we want more reaction and commentary. One avid reader throughout has been a firebrand of sorts named Matt. He offers up regular retorts to our so-called “liability crisis” and drinks from a glass that is most definitely half-full. We asked him to spell out his thoughts on health courts, as he doesn’t seem to have bought into the system.
I believe in the American jury system. Nowhere else in the world do you have a situation where people with no conceivable vested stake in the outcome are making the call based on the best case of both sides put before them. In many inquisitorial systems, popular in Europe, you have one judge as the fact finder. Imagine that in America, given the influence of lobbyists on our politicians. And I don't just mean corporate lobbyists, but ATLA as well. Can you think of something that would more undermine our process? Even tort reformers are reluctant to attack juries too strongly, but judges? No restraint for judges - consider the Schaivo rhetoric.
The health courts are nothing more than backdoor damage caps, as I've frequently said. Take that provision out, and we're not having a discussion about them. They're dead in the water. And, they solve neither of the problems identified by the Studdert study - cost and ease of access. They are still adversarial, and they still require expert witnesses.
Even if one were to stipulate they were easier to access, then that just means you'll have more unmeritorious claims. Lawyers right now, at their own expense, serve as gatekeepers to the system. To the public's detriment at times, because low cost cases aren't taken, but they do weed out a lot of frivolous cases. Ask any lawyer how many calls he/she gets a day from someone wanting a million dollars for some ridiculous slight, and they'll regale you with story after story. I, for one, attribute this to the PR efforts of the tort reformers, who actually have people believing that for little to no injury you can become wealthy quite easily.
More tomorrow on the costs of special health courts.