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Jackpot Justice

Some emergency room treatment for trial lawyers. Not everyone is accepting the diagnosis, though. Also: Gasoline is the least expensive thing about a Cape May vacation. Plus more.

8.30.06

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AMBULANCE JACKERS
Re: Bill Whalen's Trial Lawyers Find Operating Room:

This country needs to take action before these goons turn America into a third world country.

As the article noted, these new Robber Barons walk away with 1/3 or more of the "rewards" given in court. If we have usury laws, how about laws regulating the fees that lawyers can charge in such cases? Put a cap of, say, $100 an hour on fees from contingency cases. That would provide little incentive for focusing solely on industry-bankrupting jack pot cases, as opposed to trying the more mundane cases that now days go untried.

A few years ago I was in a traffic accident, and the other driver admitted fault. The insurance company took care of everything with no hassles. I was perfectly happy -- much to the disappointment of lawyers who obtained the police report and called me every night for a month trying to stir up a lawsuit against the other driver. If there are so many lawyers out there that they have to resort to such practices, then why on earth should the public fund law schools to make even more of them? How about scholarships for bright kids who promise not to pursue a degree in law?

The multi-billion dollar "cost of doing business" that white collar thugs inflict on this country is not inflicted in other countries, which has a lot to do with why companies are moving overseas. These parasites must be destroyed, and the sooner the better.
-- D. Lewis
Nashville, Tennessee

Families suffer daily from medical errors there is not accountability for hospitals. Hospitals literally can kill you and get away with it. What agency is looking at hospitalized and forcing them to comply with the law? The answer is nobody. They are licensed to do whatever to whomever whenever they want. Patient Safety is a huge issue in this country and maybe you should start writing on that topic.

For decades the public yes including me watched medical errors happen, and did nothing. These errors did not affect me or others, but the reality is it does. Medical errors kill more people yearly than AIDS, Car accidents, and Cancer. This seems to be a problem in my opinion.

I became an advocate for patient safety after my own mother was set on fire during surgery at a Washington, D.C hospital. I created a website called www.surgicalfire.org did you know being set on fire is a true risk of surgery. Many brush this fact off because 100 plus fires a year is not enough to justify an issue. I and other burn victims feel differently. I have posted my mother's burn photos under a personal story to drive my point home. Mr. Whalen I suggest you view those photos, and tell me if you were burned so badly how much is your face worth? My mother suffered, and the hospital refused to take accountability for what happened. My mother died because they dragged on a lawsuit that should have been settled. We could not afford my mother's care. My mother died because of another medical error at a different facility.

So when you write about the billions that victims' families receive. It simply is not true.
-- Catherine Reuter-Lake
Boonsboro, Maryland

Bill Whalen's article, "Trial Lawyers Find Operating Room," is nothing more than a shabby hit piece on lawyers, without any evidence to back up his charge that "trial lawyers" are "improperly" using the legal system to line their own pockets.

Whalen begins his article by lamenting the avalanche of lawsuits that have been filed against Putnam General Hospital, in Putnam, West Virginia, apparently arising from repeated cases of medical malpractice by one of the hospital's orthopedic surgeons. Notably, Whalen does not suggest that the lawsuits are meritless. So is he suggesting that victims of medical negligence should go without legal remedies for their injuries? While there are good arguments to be made for changing the legal regime governing med-mal claims -- e.g., the burden of proof is too low and punishes doctors for differences of opinion rather than true errors of judgment -- Whalen doesn't make any such arguments.

Whalen then complains about "jackpot justice." We all have heard the stories about outrageous jury verdicts for seemingly minor injuries. But the focus here should be on the juries, not the lawyers. Just like businessmen, or anyone else who honestly pursues his own profit, lawyers seek the best deal they can get for their clients, and themselves, under the rules of the game. Does Whalen think that lawyers should be selfless "public servants"? Perhaps the government should determine how much lawyers get paid? What about doctors? Airline pilots? Auto mechanics? Farmers? Etc. Rubbish. Lawyers have as much a right as anyone else in a free society to pursue their self-interest, so long as they obey the law. If Whalen objects to excessive jury verdicts, then he needs to suggest changes in the law to correct the situation -- not take cheap shots at lawyers.

Whalen ends his article with the tendentious statement that "America's legal system, used properly, can produce marvelous resorts [sic -- results]." What does he mean by "used properly"? When a negligence case is brought before a jury and the jury awards the maximum damages allowed under the law, the legal system is being used properly -- whether or not Whalen agrees with the results. The legal system in our country works exactly how it is intended to work. If Whalen thinks that it could be improved -- and, of course, it can -- then he needs to identify how and why. But Whalen's diatribe against "trial lawyers" adds nothing to the very important debate about legal reform.

Lastly, I would like to add a point of clarification. All lawyers who litigate in court are "trial lawyers" -- some of whom represent the plaintiff and others of whom (like myself) represent the defendant. The trial lawyers who Whalen and others mean to single out for opprobrium are those who represent individual plaintiffs in lawsuits against businesses or governments. Whalen surely doesn't mean to criticize the lawyers who are defending Putnam General Hospital. Although I am not a "trial lawyer" as Whalen uses that term, and have little sympathy for most plaintiffs, I nevertheless wonder if there is some sort of "class bias" that Whalen has against individuals who seek legal relief for harm done to them by the larger institutions of society.
-- Steven M. Warshawsky
New York, New York

I have said for some time that my dogs have better medical care than I do. First we consult with the doctor regarding tests and decisions, no middleman. I pay cash. Lawyers are not interested in pets, there is not that much money. We accept the consequence of our decision to treat or not, and ultimately the death of our pets. Sometimes I regretted the pain I inflicted on a dog by allowing all that treatment, when I should have just brought her home and given her all the hamburgers she wanted instead. What more can I say. We need tort reform, and go back to a cash system as far as practical. It will be cheaper in the end, to accept the consequences of our decisions.
-- Barb Smith
Arvada, Colorado

To quote a phrase from Tom Hanks in the movie Philadelphia, "What do you do call ten thousand lawyers at the bottom of the sea?" "A good start."
-- Melvin L. Leppla
Jacksonville, North Carolina

THE CRUDE OF CANADA
Re: Ralph R. Reiland's From Cape May to Hezbollah:

There a certain facts about the quantity of oil that are in reserve in the world that seem to be ignored. Canada has over two trillion (TRILLION) barrels of oil in tar sands . This oil is being extracted profitably. There are over two trillion (TRILLION) barrels of oil in oil shale in the western United States. This oil can also be extracted profitably at current prices. The United States has the world's largest coal reserves comparable to Saudi a Arabia's oil reserves. This coal can be turned into diesel ( using a process invented by the Germans in WW II).

However, the Middle East ( and Russia) can flood the market with oil at any time, making the price plunge ( $30 to $40 a barrel). This would make the investment in tar sands and oil shale a disaster. That is why there is so much hedging in developing the technologies needed to make us self-sufficient in energy products.

There is also much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth by the environmental lobby when the subject of nuclear energy is brought up. When you mention nuclear, there only response is "bomb". What do you do with the waste? Well, what does France, Japan, and England do with the waste. They don't have to fight tooth and nail about its disposal. The advances in nuclear engineering in the past decade has made the safety and viability of new nuclear plants practical and necessary to America's energy self sufficiency.

What's the fuss about?
-- Fred Edwards

I think that Professor Reiland is going to have to come up with another reason for the decline in summer vacationers to the Jersey Shore than the price of gas. Anyone willing to pay the weekly and monthly rents at Cape May, Sea Isle City and points in between is not going to be discouraged by the cost of their transportation there and back home. The Landlords will have to adjust and as an infrequent visitor there, I say, "It's about time. The pirates of the 'rip off coast' have it coming!"

As far as solving the gasoline crisis and incidentally saving the Jersey Shore's economy by switching to Prius's and other glorified scooters, forget it! Can you imagine traveling from Pittsburgh to Cape May in a Prius with three youngsters, a wife and a weeks worth of luggage? Good Luck!
-- Bob Keiser
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

I believe that energy guru Peter Huber has it right that the problem with oil is not that it is so expensive but that it is too cheap.

Synthetic fuels were the thing when Mr. Carter put on his cardigan and declared the Moral Equivalent of War. Turns out that South Africa stuck with synthetic fuel under the anti-apartheid sanctions, but having put apartheid behind them, they have a company called Sasol that will build you a plant to make oil from abundant coal for $35 a barrel, half the current price of oil.

There is a line of thinking that the Middle Eastern oil fields are more depleted than you think and that we are beyond the point of seeing oil prices coming down again. But how many people are willing to make multi-billion dollar bets on Sasol plants that we won't see $30 oil?
-- Paul Milenkovic
Madison, Wisconsin

LUEDERS' CORNER
Re: C.D. Lueders's letter ("Unmasked Politics") in Reader Mail's Salt of the Earth:

Regarding Mr. Lueders's Letter:

Your latest fisking of the comment by Mr. Maskiell is, indeed, a thing of beauty. Sir, I would just offer you one thought for your consideration. Mr. Maskiell should not be taken seriously, as anyone that agrees that their personal guns should be confiscated and themselves rendered defenseless before the Australian criminal element is not of a right and sane mind. I am sure that Mr. Maskiell would gladly tell you that his protection from criminals is the job of the police, not a group of vigilantes. Of course, the police only respond after the fact, but don't try to confuse him with facts, he is already confused enough.

Have a great day, Mr. Lueders, and keep commenting to The Spectator, I enjoy you intermittent inputs.
-- Ken Shreve
Formerly of Florida

Hooray for C.D. Lueders of Melbourne, Florida, for his (her) reply to Nathan Maskiell's arrogant, condecending letter under "The Eyes Have It." Atta boy! (or girl!)
-- Ruth Warren

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