Tort Reform Has Been Great for Missouri
The governor gave a series of speeches yesterday about the results of tort reform legislation that was passed in 2005. Combest has links to several articles about it. In my opinion, that legislation was the most important reform the state has made during the past 20 years, which luckily corresponds with my basic frame of reference.
Not surprisingly, the trial lawyers they quote in the article (actually, it’s the same one in each) don’t agree. And, even less surprisingly, the trial lawyers respond to facts and economics with a plea to the heart. From the article Southeast Missourian (all emphasis below is added):
Blunt said 2007 numbers were not available, but that from 2005 to 2006, average settlement costs fell nearly 14 percent, and total claims against Missouri doctors dropped by 61 percent.
Costs and claims falling is a good thing for our economy and health care system. Let’s remember that, can we please? From the Columbia Daily-Tribune:
Dr. Jeff Thomasson, who spoke at the news conference, said that before the new law, his radiology group’s premiums rose 88 percent one year and 94 percent another year. Over the past two years, the premiums declined slightly, Thomasson said. As a result, he believes recruiting and retaining good doctors is easier.
That is extremely important. I specifically remember that during arguments I had about tort reform with trial lawyers (generally either my dad or my stepdad), they claimed doctors’ premiums would never actually go down because the entire reform was just a scam by the insurance companies, etc. (They probably said it much better than that, but that was the gist of it.) So, here we have specific evidence that tort reform legislation has lead to a decrease in insurance premiums, just as basic economics indicated it would.
From the MATA people, we get this:
Vuylsteke said the number of cases are declining because the elderly, the poor and parents of young children "can’t find lawyers to handle their cases because the lawyers can’t afford to represent them." For many lawyers, who must invest substantial costs in expert witnesses and in hours preparing for the trial, the risk simply isn’t worth it, he said.
If someone has a good case, they will find a lawyer to take that case. Guaranteed. What is being admitted to above, unintentionally, is that before tort reform many bad cases went forward because the system so favored the plaintiffs. Even in less-than-stellar cases, a St. Louis city venue alone was good enough to scare at least some type of settlement out of the defense. So now we have lower costs, lower premiums, and fewer meritless lawsuits moving forward. As I said, it’s been great for Missouri.