Only a baby step

On April 27, 2008, in News 2008, by Mark Norris

Commercial Appeal, Editorials
April 27, 2008

Supporters of tort reform in Tennessee are touting a measure approved by the General Assembly as a step toward eventual passage of comprehensive legislation that will revolutionize medical malpractice litigation.

That’s an optimistic assessment that might be borne out in the future, but it’s far from a certainty.

While the bill is a reasonable and moderate step toward the reduction of meritless lawsuits, a much larger battle lies ahead for serious reformers such as Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris of Collierville.

The ultimate goal of physicians and insurers — to place hard-and-fast caps on damage awards in malpractice cases — will be much more difficult to justify and a tougher nut to crack.

The bill on its way to the governor’s office streamlines the process to keep some claims from reaching the jury and makes it clear that attorneys who pursue claims with no real merit can be sanctioned.

Fine ideas, indeed. But the real donnybrook lies ahead when tort reform advocates seriously try to build on this “incremental step.” The Capitol could probably print fliers and charge admission.

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