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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Universal Malpractice

Those of you who still care about the image of lawyers (I think there are one or two of you left) probably had to do a bit of deep breathing if you saw the front page article in the Los Angeles Times the other day about medical malpractice.

In case you missed it, here's the subheadline: "Lawyers, citing an award limit, often won't take medical injury suits."

The story goes on to tell us how the children of an elderly woman who died in a hospital after some pretty obvious malpractice went to two dozen lawyers and none of them would take the case because they couldn't make enough money.

And the best part of it was that one of the children was a doctor who used to like caps on medical judgments.

If Charles Dickens were still around, this would be in a new serial.

The cause may have been just, but there weren't any heroic lawyers willing to take it on without some serious money. No bar association p. r. campaign is going to make up for this.

Politicians take note: I have a solution.

The answer is universal malpractice coverage. We also need to swap caps (I'll get to this in a bit).

You can talk all you want about universal health coverage. That may be a good thing, but what you're going to get with it is lots and lots more medical malpractice.

Who's going to pay for that?

Why, the universal medical malpractice fund.

And who's going to pay for all the legal malpractice that will come with the flood of disputed medical malpractice claims on the fund?

Why, the universal legal malpractice fund.

Then doctors and lawyers will feel free to commit as much malpractice as they want - and most of us will be diagnosing ourselves on the Internet.

Now the bit about the caps. The problem, it seems to me, is that states are capping the wrong thing. The caps you mostly see are on awards for pain and suffering (apparently because it's so easily quantifiable).

What that means is that old ladies are worthless and already-rich executives are worth a lot because there's no cap on economic damages.

Do you see where this is going? All you have to do is cap the economic damages instead of the pain and suffering damages and, suddenly, old ladies are worth just as much as already-rich executives.

The result: no more embarrassing front-page stories in the Times about lawyers.

Write your legislator.

EXCLUSIVE JUDGING. I'm always thrilled to find innovative ideas for the system of justice and I got that thrill the other day when reading a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the Judge Judy Program.

The suit claimed that a producer was fired after objecting to the program's allegedly discriminatory screening process for choosing on-air litigants.

And I thought to myself: Screening Litigants!

It's brilliant.

Why should every run-of-the-mill case get into court? After all, supreme courts (except in New York where they need to learn the definition of supreme) don't take every case that comes along. Why should trial courts?

Access to trials should be limited to those that can prove their cases are entertaining. Or to litigants that look really good in tight-fitting clothing.

You'll get a better brand of justice because judges will be paying very close attention.

Everyone else can work on settlements.

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