Monday, June 30, 2003

Tort reform only disregards victims

Dennis L. White
Guest columnist

The Republicans want to send a very clear message to a very powerful club of special interests. It goes something like this: Actions do not have consequences. Incompetence is excusable. Victim's pain and suffering are moot.

Let the good times roll.

Republican legislators, led by Sen. Steve Stivers, are keen on "caps," the monetary limit that an injured person may recover in a civil lawsuit. These "caps," the Republicans argue, are the solution to controlling skyrocketing insurance costs, frivolous lawsuits and lengthy, expensive litigation.

They're wrong.

Senate Bill 80 has little to do with tort reform. Rather, it has more to do with tipping the scales in favor of those, who because of greed, or incompetence, or wanton disregard for safety, have adversely affected the lives of real people. Its reasonaing in the name of "reform" is ridiculous - Republicans make the faulty claim that the elderly, or children, or homemakers are entitled to less of a recovery because they do not suffer lost wages. After all, if they don't work, per se, they have no economic loss, right?

Wrong, again. Injured persons, especially children, because of a doctor's careless mistake or because of the physical devastation inflicted by a faulty product or a drunk driver, are entitled to economic damages - not only to ease pain and suffering, but also to ensure financial survival in the absence of any future gainful employment.

Don't be fooled. Republicans will try and tell you that "caps" will curb escalating insurance premiums, especially for malpractice insurance. When in reality, a recent studyshowed that in states where similar reform was in place, premiums continued to rise, even after settlements were reduced. And who benefits? Insurance companies. Simply put, this bill is just one more in a long line of sweetheart deals that protects the interests of the rich and powerful and tramples the rights of the average Ohioan in the process. Is this justice?

Sen. Stivers is a close friend of mine, but he and his Republican colleagues are way off on Senate Bill 80. Former Republican Supreme Court Justice, Craig J. Wright, would agree: "This is going to get knocked down. This General Assembly should not just willy-nilly create a bill that is patently unconstitutional" (The Plain Dealer, June 5).

If Senate Bill 80 becomes law in the Republican-controlled statehouse, it will add the ultimate insult to injury: Victims do not matter.

Republican one-party rule, selling off Ohio, one branch of government at a time.


Dennis L. White, is chair of the Ohio Democratic Party.

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