11 Jul 2003 A Frivolous Piece
Michael Kinsley’s piece on medical malpractice reform in the July 11 Washington Post contains this paragraph:
One subject you don’t see many anecdotes about is “frivolous lawsuits,” although this is a major theme of malpractice reform crusaders. There’s a reason: Even unworthy lawsuits usually don’t look frivolous up close. A quadriplegic who wins $20 million in what critics call the “lawsuit lottery” is still a quadriplegic. He is still a quadriplegic even if others in the same situation get little or nothing. He is still a quadriplegic even if the doctor he sued did nothing in particular wrong. If you had the choice in advance, would you agree to become a quadriplegic for $20 million?
First, if an “unworthy lawsuit” doesn’t look frivolous up close, then it wasn’t an unworthy lawsuit.
Second, frivolous lawsuit stories rarely, if ever, feature persons who were injured to the point of quadriplegia. More likely examples — such as the last several I’ve written for the National Center’s Legal Briefs newsletter — are of persons who sue because their feelings have been hurt, or to blame others for something they did to themselves (such as the Pennsylvania woman we’ll cover in Legal Briefs #28, due out July 15th, who suffered a drug overdose because she shot herself up with cocaine and heroin, and now is suing a half-dozen defendants she says are responsible).
Third, the hypothetical quadriplegic in Kinsley’s story sues a doctor who is forced to pay $20 million although he did nothing wrong. Kinsley uses this scenario to conclude: “So the direct effect of restricting the size of malpractice judgments would be to increase injustice, not to reduce it.”
Then Kinsley makes it clear that he supports medical malpractice reform, he’s just conflicted about the fact that its a GOP proposal and the GOP isn’t his usual team. Gee, we could hardly tell he was conflicted at all.
On the web version of the piece, by the way, the piece is adorned by two ads from lawyers specializing in medical malpractice cases. Conflicted, indeed.