State Legislators Warn Congress Against Enacting Tort Reform

The nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislators has informed Congress of its “strong, bipartisan opposition” to the enactment of H.R. 5, the bill to sharply limit all civil suits against health care providers, including nursing homes, hospitals, and insurance companies. In the letter, NCSL defended the rights of the states to enact its own liability statutes and hold companies accountable before local juries. NCSL is also planning meetings of state legislators with Republican Congressmen to urge them to stand up for the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. You can download the entire letter, and here are some excerpts:

Medical malpractice, product liability and other areas of tort reform are areas of law that have been traditionally and successfully regulated by the states. Since the country’s inception, states have addressed the myriad of substantive and regulatory issues regarding licensure, insurance, court procedures, victim compensation, civil liability, medical records and related matters. In the past two decades, all states have explored various aspects of medical malpractice and products liability and chosen various means for remedying identified problems. Over the past several years, states have continued to revise and refine their medical malpractice laws and procedures

Federal medical malpractice legislation inappropriately seeks to preempt various areas of state law. All 50 states have statutes of limitations for medical malpractice suits. All 50 states have rules of civil procedure governing the admissibility of evidence and the use of expert witnesses. Many states have caps on noneconomic damages and limitations on attorney’s fees in medical malpractice cases

NCSL’s opposition will extend to any bill or amendment that directly or indirectly preempts any state law governing the awarding of damages by mandatory, uniform amounts or the awarding of attorney’s fees. Our opposition also extends to any provision affecting the drafting of pleadings, the introduction of evidence and statutes of limitations. Furthermore, NCSL opposes any federal legislation that would undermine the capacity of aggrieved parties to seek full and fair redress in state courts for physical harm done to them due to the negligence of others.”

The NCSL letter is signed by one Democratic and one Republican legislator. The Republican, Jerry Madden, is a conservative, West Point grad and Vietnam vet from Texas, home of numerous Congressmen involved in the tort reform battle. The NCSL letter arrives just after the opinion by Rob Natelson, top Tea Party-side Constitutional law expert, that federal tort reform is an excessive use of the Commerce Clause and violates the Bill of Rights. Readers should tell their Congressmen that the evidence is growing of the unconstitutionality of H.R. 5 and other attempts to take over the state-based civil litigation process.