Let’s just say that over the years, Victor has been among the more honest spokespeople within the so-called “tort reform” movement, especially when it comes to medical malpractice litigation. Back in 2003, when the insurance industry was price-gouging doctors and blaming lawsuits for this instead of the industry’s own investment cycle, Victor said something else. He told the Honolulu Star Bulletin on April 20, 2003, “Insurance was cheaper in the 1990s because insurance companies knew that they could take a doctor's premium and invest it, and $50,000 would be worth $200,000 five years later when the claim came in … An insurance company today can't do that.” (This must have driven the Physicians Insurance Association of America [PIAA] even crazier than they already were.)
Similarly, in 1999, he told Liability Week, “We wouldn’t tell you or anyone that the reason to pass tort reform would be to reduce insurance rates. … [M]any tort reform advocates do not contend that restricting litigation will lower insurance rates, and ‘I’ve never said that in 30 years.’” OK!
And here is Victor Schwartz today, contradicting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Insurance Association, the PIAA, and a lot of politicians. As reported by Business Insurance (subscription):
But Victor Schwartz, general counsel of the American Tort Reform Assn. in Washington, was more skeptical. He noted that the recently introduced Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011—H.R. 5—does not mention sanctioning frivolous lawsuits. The measure instead focuses on “substantive” reforms such as capping noneconomic and punitive damages, he said (see box, page 3).
It is “rare or unusual” for a plaintiff lawyer to bring a frivolous malpractice suit because they are too expensive to bring, said Mr. Schwartz. “Frivolous” claims tend to be made against small businesses as an effort to leverage a settlement rather than in medical malpractice cases, he said.
Even when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, proposals capping damages garnered insufficient votes in the Senate, Mr. Schwartz said. “It's extremely difficult to get caps through the Senate,” he said, adding that it also would be very difficult to integrate federal caps with existing state caps.
OK, let's forget the small business slam for a moment since abusive big businesses and their lawsuits are a far greater problem. But when it comes to suits by those injured by medical malpractice, let's review. H.R. 5 has nothing to do with frivolous lawsuits (while its supporters wrongly insist that it does). There aren’t frivolous med mal suits anyway because they are too expensive to bring. And federal caps would make a mess of state law.
We appreciate the honesty again, Victor.