Examiner Editorial: Trial lawyers buy Democrats in Congress

Both Obamacare proposals now before Congress don’t include a medical malpractice reform provision, despite the fact that the public wants one — and that it would cut annual health care costs by $200 billion.

A medical malpractice reform provision would protect doctors from expensive lawsuits filed by avaricious class-action plaintiffs attorneys who have driven malpractice insurance rates into the stratosphere. Judging by Federal Election Commission data on the political contributions of people associated with the top 15 class-action plaintiffs law firms, it’s no accident that malpractice reform is not part of health care “reform.” Trial lawyers are investing heavily in their Democratic friends who control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Since Jan. 3, 581 contributions worth $1,261,023 have been made by donors identifying themselves as employees of the 15 firms (contributions by employees who did not identify their employer are not reflected in this data). Democratic candidates and committees received $1,241,948, or 98 percent of the total. The most generous of these lucrative sources was the Dallas-based Baron & Budd, best known for the late Fred Baron, who was finance chairman for former Sen. John Edwards’ 2008 presidential run. Thus far in 2009, Baron & Budd employees have contributed $212,958 to 21 Democrats, and not a cent to Republicans. Second on the list is the New York-based Grant Eisenhofer firm, with employees contributing $184,078 to seven Democrats and no Republicans. Of the 138 total recipients from employees of all 15 of the firms, 122 were Democrats and just 16 were Republicans. Democrats received contributions averaging more than $4,700, while the Republicans averaged $646.

Has the investment paid off? Besides preventing the inclusion of medical malpractice reform, the Democratic majority in Congress has included multiple trial lawyer earmarks in the House version of Obamacare. Section 257 authorizes state attorneys general to sue companies that violate any federal health care provision and to delegate the work of such suits to class-action plaintiffs firms. Another trial lawyer earmark in the bill pays states not to enact caps on attorneys fees or lawsuit settlements.

Besides provisions of Obamacare, class-action trial lawyers are getting their money’s worth in other ways. The Ledbetter bill signed by President Barack Obama overturned a Supreme Court ruling upholding deadlines for plaintiffs to file class-action lawsuits, thus clearing the way for such suits to be filed years after alleged damages supposedly occurred. Among the pending bills that favor the trial attorneys is one to allow “guilt by association” class-action suits against firms doing business with a defendant company.

These examples only skim the surface of what Democrats have been doing for their trial lawyer friends this year, but it’s enough to make clear the trial bar knows where to invest its settlement fees.

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