Some Ideas Are Better Left Alone
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By etrigan - Last updated: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 - Save & Share - 10 Comments

Yeah, I know this sucks, but sometimes you need to let people know when you actually suck vs. when they (incorrectly) think you suck.

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Posted in Politics • • Top Of Page

10 Responses to “Some Ideas Are Better Left Alone”

Comment from rick
Time August 22, 2003 at 11:19 am

No one took the bait. I guess it is because this cartoon is goofy (the edited version – the original is cute). But I think this is an important issue, so I’m going to chime in anyway. I’m in favor of limiting punitive damages in lawsuits. Good doctors shouldn’t have to pay $100,000/year for malpractice insurance. Victims of malpractice get actual damages (compensatory) and some level of punitive damages are fine. However, if an incident is so bad that a $30 million punitive award is considered in order by a jury, I’d rather see a fine and the doc loses his license.

Comment from jank
Time August 22, 2003 at 11:33 am

I’d rather see a fine and the doc loses his license.

Man, these are the words I’ve been looking for with this all freakin’ week! Thanks, Rick.

Comment from etrigan
Time August 22, 2003 at 6:38 pm

Yes, by all means let’s trust the association of doctors to side against a fellow doctor and with a patient.

Next time I get in trouble at work for a “security violation” I want my case reviewed by other programmer types.

Comment from etrigan
Time August 22, 2003 at 11:44 pm

Let me disabuse you fellas of this little falsehood you are living under. Reducing/limiting punitive damages does not reduce premiums. Take a look at this study of limits placed on punitive damages of automobile accidents in Texas (no less) and consider how much your premiums have gone down since 1995 and 1997.

…the actual operating results of Texas private passenger automobile insurance companies show that Texas consumers have not seen any of the “savings” from “tort reform.” Rather, any reductions in insurance losses resulting from “tort reform” have flowed directly to insurance company profits.

The same will be true for medical malpractice. Rates will continue to rise and insurance companies will pocket the difference if it occurs.

Comment from Jank
Time August 23, 2003 at 6:33 am

I’d rather see the profits go to insurance company shareholders than lawyers. Ideally, I’d like to see the docs keep the money, but given a choice, the insurance folks are by far the lesser of two evils.

Here are my two major gripes with the current system of torts: First, the standard to get a case into court is way too low, and once papers are filed, the defense is on the hook to continue to pay legal fees (at a minimum) potentially for years. The mere fact of being a defendant in a civil suit imposes a large cost on individuals and companies, independent of the merits of the case brought against them.

Secondly, the awards handed down do not usually have much to do with the circumstances of the case, but are based more on the gullibility of the jury and the leniency of the judge at trial than the facts. It is difficult to make an estimate of potential damages, so often it is impossible for a defendant to estimate the impact of sticking around for trial. So the defense settles for a known quantity, regardless of the merits of the case, simply to avoid the unknown.

As far as the limits on automobile damages, my quick answer would be that, much like with the proposed cap on malpractice damages, the potential awards are in line with those currently awarded in average cases (See the Ford example). In which case, costs would remain constant, and no, rates wouldn’t go down.

One last point – There’s not a whole lot of difference IMO between limits on punitive damages and mandatory sentencing guidelines for criminal cases. Both are being put in place to make the justice system more uniformly just, and to reduce the variance in outcomes between various jurisdictions.

Comment from etrigan
Time August 23, 2003 at 8:00 am

And both are pouring ice water on a dog’s nose because he’s sick. When the speed limit is set to 65 eveyone goes 65. When the punitive damage limit is set to $250k everyone will get $250k. When you impose a limit on criminal activities more people go to jail — crime does not happen less — and you therefore create more criminals. (And the fact that you make big criminals out of small criminals is a blog for another day.)

You reasonably and accuractely made a case for your complaints about the justice system and I completely agree with you on them. Then you picked two “solutions” that have no affect on the ills of the system.

Much like the fight for redisctricting, the GOP is pushing for their useless legislation and they will get it in place and it will have no effect. I fight these things because I hate to see the government wasting my time passing “reforms” that hold water like a woven basket.

As an independent, I side more with the Dems because their laws are actually trying to address an issue. Reducing old growth logging and restricting industrial air pollution are directly attacking issues they believe in (until someone on the GOP attaches exclusions for their corporate friends). The GOP big public legal triumphs are houses of cards.

Comment from jank
Time August 25, 2003 at 9:04 am

you impose a limit on criminal activities more people go to jail — crime does not happen less

In what world? DOJ statistics show a huge decrease in crime over the ’90s, a decade in which incarceration rates went up by large leaps. Guliani’s rehabiliation of NYC was largely due to the NYPD’s fierce crackdown on petty crime, such as graffiti, panhandling, and streetwalking, on the theory that allowing small crime lead to larger crimes.

Look, I agree that getting more folks to show up for jury duty would help, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. The Houston Chronicle had a front page story yesterday addressing this issue, featuring tidbits such as “…A common explanation … is that they never saw the summons. The only way to confirm whether an individual actually received … (it) … would be to send it through certified mail with a return receipt requested … But that would boost the cost to more than $4 per mailing … In other words, the only real consequence for not showing up is the nagging feeling that a civic obligation has been shirked. Technically, residents … are subject to arrest for contempt of court, a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a $500 fine. Eight years ago … (s)ome people were fined. But no one has been prosecuted in at least eight years … because it would divert police from other crime-fighting efforts. …(C)ourt officials report no problems securing jurors for the county’s 82 civil and criminal courts Yep, the folks who see $6/day as an attractive compensation.

Maybe a solution would be to tie jury summonses to things like driver’s license renewals.

Comment from etrigan
Time August 25, 2003 at 2:58 pm

Amen to that brother. Let’s extend that idea a little further. Since driving is a priviledge (sorry, Libbies, it is.) let’s require jury duty service as a renewal requirement.

Comment from KellyMc
Time August 26, 2003 at 9:35 pm

Let’s all give cynsmith a big hand as she heads out for jury duty tomorrow morning.

In Washington DC it works like this:

Of the 600,000+ residents of DC, approx. 598,000 of them are lawyers who will almost never get put on a jury, leaving a pool of 2,000 of the rest of us. We get called like clockwork every two years for DC Superior Court, and if we’re lucky, there might be a District Court or a special trial summons in between.

I don’t mind this so much, but in my 3 trips down to jury duty I’ve been put into jury selection once — that case was settled before selection was finished — and I’ve been let go without even leaving the juror’s room twice. (the last time it happened, I used the rest of my day to go down and watch the sausage being made at the House of Representatives, so I at least got some of my civic involvement swerve on.)

Comment from Jank
Time August 26, 2003 at 10:31 pm

Yeah, Cyn!!

I’ve been registered to vote w/ working addresses ever since I hit 18, and have never gotten a summons in the decade plus I’ve been eligible. My mom, OTOH, gets called annually. Then dismissed annually when she makes the trip downtown.

Yes on Prop 12.

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