Sunday, January 30, 2011

NYC Mayor Bloomberg says lawyers should support tort reform

In a speech to the New York State Bar Association on January 26, Mayor Mike Bloomberg asked the city's bar association to support tort reform and even seems to suggest we should go back to the days when contributory negligence operated as a complete ban to recovery. The Mayor's arguments are nothing new and they are, as usual, lacking in support. Based on vague and unsupported allegations that tort reform will, somehow, improve the economy, tort reformers have been making the same claims for years. The buzz words are always the same: litigation is a "lottery", doctors are leaving town, defensive medicine, we need medical courts, frivolous lawsuits, etc etc.... all in a effort to make it more difficult for victims to be able to recover for their injuries. What is missing is proof of a basic concept of tort law (ironically): causation. For example, we keep hearing that doctors are leaving town and that we should limit the rights of victims to sue. Yet, I have not seen evidence that doctors are leaving town because victims are suing. This is so because there are many reasons why people move away and "fear of litigation" is probably not high on the list. A study cited by popular New York blogger Eric Turkewitz in his response to Mayor Bloomberg, found 6 percent growth in the number of doctors practicing medicine in NY from 2001 to 2005 and that while newly licensed doctors flock to New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, far fewer choose to practice in the vast upstate region. During the years the study was conducted, Essex County in the Adirondacks lost 22 percent of its doctors, while there was a 19 percent increase in Nassau County, on Long Island. Why? Probably because economic conditions in upstate NY are worse. That has little, if anything, to do with medical malpractice costs. In the end, pretty much all the ideas the Mayor presented were old and have been tried, discredited or debunked. Unfortunately, we keep hearing them as if they were based on fact rather than anecdotes. Take a look at Turkewitz reply to the Mayor here in which he replies to many of the Mayor's points in detail.

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