As you go to the polls this fall, you will see a measure for tort reform known as Issue 1. It is similar to one we passed in Texas that has had a dramatically favorable impact on our state.
The powerful positive effects came in three key areas: improved access to health care, an improved environment to grow jobs and reduced the number of wasteful lawsuits filed and claims made by two-bit trial lawyers, which protected consumers from predatory practices of these greedy lawyers. In Texas, trial lawyers long viewed medical professionals as cash cows and thus filled the courts with numerous medical malpractice suits against doctors. These lawyers took these actions hoping for a quick economic score.
Even though nearly 90% of their cases failed as being frivolous, each lawsuit averaged a cost of more than $50,000 to defend, raising insurance costs. My personal orthopedist – the premier hand doctor in North Texas – never had a medical malpractice suit filed against him, but he still paid almost $200,000 per year in medical malpractice insurance, which meant that I paid more in my office visits and treatments.
With such high insurance costs, medical professionals fled the state. In fact, of the 254 counties in Texas, 100 of those counties did not have a pediatrician. A total of 154 counties did not have an ob-gyn. There was not a single neurosurgeon south of San Antonio – which was almost half the state.
In the first 10 years of legal reform in Texas, malpractice insurance premiums declined an average of 46 percent. The number of malpractice claims and lawsuits declined by almost two-thirds.
The effect? The quick money is gone for greedy trial lawyers and the so are the lawsuits. Tort reform has reduced the chances of lawyers winning big payouts.
Unscrupulous trial lawyers don’t stop with doctors. They also go after engineers, bank officers, businesses, corporate boards and even charities. The hope is for some type of a lucky big windfall from all their frivolous lawsuits. This increases businesses’ operating costs, which then drive up consumer costs.
It is not easy to grow jobs in an litigious environment requiring small business owners and entrepreneurs to fear every decision could send them into a courtroom spending money to defend themselves instead of spending that money on raises and hiring new employees.
The more you spend on health care, goods and services to cover the costs required to keep greedy trial lawyers in business is less money you have for your family.
Long ago, President Abraham Lincoln, a noted attorney, wisely advised: “Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects…whereon to stir up strife and put money in his pocket?… An exorbitant fee should never be claimed.”
We put an end to frivolous lawsuits in Texas.
We protected the rights of those who had truly been harmed, making sure that their expenses and damages were fully recovered. At the same time we stopped the unscrupulous judicial lottery that benefits trial lawyers more often than the people they are supposed to represent, victimizing them again, but with no recourse.
As a result of tort reform in Texas, our medical insurance costs have fallen dramatically and the number of medical health professionals serving in Texas has doubled. Our health care has improved. Areas of Texas that were not being served before are now.
Our costs are down. Businesses are growing jobs and Texas is known as a hub for entrepreneurs who attract the best and brightest.
This is what you can do in Arkansas. I urge you to join other leaders across Arkansas and support Issue 1 when voting starts in the fall.
Editor’s note: David Barton is the founder of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on moral, religious, and constitutional heritage. The opinions expressed are those of the author.