Go ahead. Test a lawyer's ingenuity. Try to limit damages

New York Times
Sunday, March 6, 2005

President Bush says that large malpractice awards are helping to drive health care costs up, and he wants to cap some damages patients may recover in court from doctors and hospitals. But lawyers are resourceful types, and a new study suggests that limiting one sort of damage award merely causes other kinds of damages to increase.
In states that already cap some damages -- the ones labeled ''pain and suffering'' -- the study finds that total awards have remained pretty much the same. This suggests that plaintiffs' lawyers have simply recast their cases to encourage juries to award the same amounts under different names -- for, say, ''lost wages.''
Legal experts have questioned aspects of the study's methodology and findings.

Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, which opposes limits on damages, said the wrong cases might be falling by the wayside.
People who had big incomes can often show big economic damages, she said, while ''capping non-economic damages discriminates against women, stay-at-home moms, children, the poor and the elderly.''
 In an interview, Professor Sharkey said no one recommendation follows from her study.
''This could go in two wholly separate directions,'' she said. ''One side would go toward suggesting that if you really wanted to lower damages you should cap all damages. On the other side are people who say these kinds of reforms are somewhat futile.''
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D

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