New Report Reveals Massive Influence Of Trial Lawyers In Washington D.C. Just As Their Lobbyists Warn President Obama Not To Support Tort Reform

An important new report recently released by the Manhattan Institute shines a bright spotlight on the tidal wave of campaign contributions flowing from personal injury lawyers to members of Congress. Get your free copy of the report here.

According to the Manhattan Institute, the amount of money being poured into the leadership of the U.S. Senate by personal injury lawyers now dwarfs contributions by all other industries. As evidence, the Manhattan Institute reveals that four of the top seven political donors to Majority Leader Harry Reid are plaintiff law firms.

It wouldn’t take a cynic to come to the conclusion that this financial relationship does not bode well for those who support efforts in Congress aimed at eliminating lawsuit abuse. But now, the story is getting even more interesting, and the stakes are as high as ever.

Yesterday, a headline in The Hill, a daily newspaper that covers Congress, declared: Trial Lawyers to Obama: Don’t deal on tort reform in healthcare negotiations. See full article here. Although the President has suggested in the past that there might be some kind of reform he’d support to eliminate meritless lawsuits against doctors, reformers have been waiting for him to support anything they consider meaningful.

The Manhattan Institute study and yesterday’s article in The Hill focus on trial lawyer influence in the nation’s capitol, but the decisions being made in Washington D.C. also have a huge impact on what is likely to happen in the states when it comes to medical liability reform.

When the Senate finally mustered enough votes to approve a heath care reform bill last December, the “tort reform” section in the bill that created demonstration projects in the states was considered a “gift” to trial lawyers. It didn’t do anything to encourage states to enact proposals to eliminate lawsuit abuse. Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow, Walter Olson, said all it did was “provide cover to lawmakers who feel they need to tell voters they did something on the tort reform front while guaranteeing that it won’t amount to anything that would bother the trial bar.”

Will President Obama’s recent statements finally move reform efforts forward? If so, he’ll need to convince Congress to encourage the states to approve reforms that actually bother the trial bar.

Doctors And Patients Both Lose When Risk Of Malpractice Suits Rises

A study recently released by Brigham Young University found that doctors spend less time on the job if they practice in a state where it’s easier for them to be sued for malpractice.

According to economists Eric Helland and Marc Showalter, doctors cut back their workload by nearly two hours per week when the expected risk of being sued rises just 10 percent. The study, published in the new issue of the Journal of Law and Economics, notes that the decline in hours adds up to the equivalent of one of every 35 physicians retiring without a replacement.

This study is important not only because it provides more evidence that states without medical liability reform laws are discouraging doctors from practicing there, but because it shows how lack of these laws hurts patients, too. Fewer doctors on the job means patients have a harder time finding the medical care they need when they need it.

Unfortunately, the people of Illinois can now expect to see many doctors there begin cutting back on the time they spend in the office. The Illinois Supreme Court recently struck down medical liability reform that had been enacted to keep and attract doctors there. See Chicago Tribune editorial here.

Personal injury lawyers in Georgia and Missouri have also taken to the courts in an effort to repeal laws that limit lawsuits against doctors. If judges overturn those laws, patients there can expect to wait longer to see their doctor, too – if they can even find a doctor!