Article from Springfield news-leader.com
Written by ROGER JOHNSON
“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
- Thomas Jefferson
Our Founding Fathers saw fit to cite the right to trial by jury as a listed Oppression by the Crown in the Declaration of Independence (immediately after “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”).
Our Founders went further, including the right to trial by jury in the Bill of Rights as the Seventh Amendment. In Missouri, our constitution provides that “the right of trial by jury … shall remain inviolate.”
Yet, despite these fundamental principles, a letter to the News-Leader (”Reinstate cap on damages,” Feb. 13) advised readers to voluntarily subvert these freedoms. There is no legitimate reason for the degradation or outright elimination of fundamental freedoms so that negligent actors may avoid accountability for the full cost of their misconduct.
False claims of a litigation crisis, excessive jury awards and doctors fleeing Missouri are refuted by independent analyses and the American Medical Association’s own statistics. The abandonment of fundamental rights is untenable under any circumstance, but particularly so when based on faulty logic unsupported by fact.
- Caps on damages do nothing to prevent frivolous claims. A cap, by definition, can only apply after the jury has found the defendant to be negligent and after the jury has found the plaintiff to have suffered damage. A cap will only unjustly shield a wrongful defendant from being held fully accountable for the damages inflicted and twice victimize the injured patient.
- Caps do not improve the business climate by limiting insurance costs. Statistics show a nationwide decline in medical malpractice rates in states with and without tort reform.
- Doctors are not fleeing Missouri. In fact, Missouri doctors have steadily increased over the past four decades (in both actual numbers and relative to the population), according to the American Medical Association’s authoritative annual compendium.
- Caps do not attract doctors to underserved communities. Any rural community is challenged in attracting professionals in any field because amenities only offered in cities are attractive to young professionals. It’s the same reason why the general population in rural areas is lower.
- “Defensive medicine” does not drive up the cost of health care. The New England Journal of Medicine has debunked this myth, reporting that caps do not lower health care costs and actually result in more negative outcomes as doctors are not held accountable for the full cost of medical errors.
Naython Watts escaped death. I had the privilege of representing Naython in Springfield in the case where the Missouri Supreme Court later struck down the cap as unconstitutional after a Greene County jury found that doctors’ negligence caused Naython an entirely preventable catastrophic brain injury.
Instead of surrendering fundamental liberties in order to protect negligent conduct, your readers should instead consider the victims of such negligence and the effect on the taxpayer of the suggested immunities.
If the negligent person is not held fully accountable for the costs of the damage, who then bears that cost? The plain answer is taxpayers through Medicare, Medicaid and public assistance programs. We should not provide a government-sponsored bailout of negligent health care providers.
Putting patients first should be the priority. Imagine the cost savings and positive business environment that would create.
Roger Johnson, Trial Attorney
Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci
510 West 6th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64801
866-836-0100 toll free