Three Reasons Why Every Tea-Partier Should Oppose Tort Reform
There’s an old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows. Never has that been more true than with the case of tort “reform” and Tea Partiers. At first glance, you’d think that Tea Partiers would support tort reform, if for no other reason than most Democrats oppose it. But here are some reasons why Tea Partiers should line up against tort reform.
Tort reform takes power from the people and gives it to politicians. A common bond shared by all Tea Partiers is the belief that the government that governs best is the government that governs least. Tea Partiers are intensely distrustful of any effort of politicians to take power away from the people. Well, tort reform does just that. It takes power away from average citizens who serve on jury pools and puts it in the hands of elitist politicians. Take damage caps, for example. Instead of trusting a duly empanelled jury of average citizens to do what’s right, many politicians would prefer to cripple the ability of juries to award the amount of money it feels is just. Now, who knows better what the appropriate amount of money to award is: twelve citizens who spent three months listening to evidence, or a handful of politicians who know nothing about the specific facts of the case? Worse yet, those same politicians would prefer that juries don’t know about the damage caps. It’s just the same as telling a jury they’re allowed to impose the death penalty, but then when the jury does impose the death penalty, reducing the sentence down to 15 years. If Tea Partiers believe that juries can be trusted to impose the death penalty, then they should also believe that juries can be trusted to award monetary damages.
Tort reform will increase the cost of the healthcare reform. One of the main reasons Tea Partiers oppose Obamacare is because of its high cost to taxpayers. What many Tea Partiers have never been told is that instead of lowering the cost of the health care plan, tort reform will actually raise it – here’s why. Imagine that a careless doctor causes a patient to need $100k in medical bills. If the patient sues the doctor and recovers that $100k in medical bills, it is the careless doctor who is paying for the cost of his mistake. If tort reform makes it too difficult to sue the careless doctor, the patient may just let his health insurance company pay for all of the medical bills. If his health insurer is Medicare or Medicaid, that means that taxpayers like you and me will be paying for the mistake of a careless doctor through our taxes. If his health insurer is a private company, the other people who use that insurance company will pay in the form of higher premiums. If there’s one common-sense rule out there, it’s “you break it, you bought it.” Unfortunately, tort reform lets other people “break it” and forces taxpayers to “buy it.” I used the example of $100k in medical bills. That may sound like a lot, but it isn’t. If a careless doctor causes a baby to become brain damaged, the lifetime medical costs for that brain-damaged baby can easily exceed $20 million dollars. If a doctor or a hospital is to blame, shouldn’t they pay the $20 million dollars instead of forcing taxpayers to pay for their mistake?
Tort reform makes it harder to hold the government accountable. We all know that many state attorneys general are filing lawsuits to block the health care bill. Those attorneys and many of their constituents believe that the government has violated the Constitution. While tort reform probably won’t stop those lawsuits, it might stop lawsuits brought over other Constitutional violations. The fact of the matter is that when the government violates your Constitutional rights, the only way you can stand up for yourself is to file a lawsuit. For example, when Dick Heller believed he had a Constitutional right to own a firearm, he filed a lawsuit to enforce his Constitutional rights. If Tea Partiers don’t want to discourage the next Dick Heller from fighting to enforce his Constitutional rights, then they should oppose tort reform. If they don’t, they might find themselves without recourse if the government tramples their Constitutional rights.
Our civil justice system is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people. Tort reform aims to change our justice system into something that is under the control of the politicians, run by the lobbyists, and for the benefit of wealthy corporations. Tea Partiers therefore shouldn’t let themselves be hoodwinked into supporting tort reform.