Media Coverage

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Sexist talk comes with penalty
Nicole L'Etoile, who earned a living hanging and taping drywall, found the construction field unwelcoming to women. But she hopes she's made it better after winning $400,000 in a federal lawsuit against a Salem company she says let male supervisors make crude and offensive comments about women.



Commentary: Seeing Results is Believing
Kansas City Star
April 8, 2005
By Steven Perlstein
...I thought of that while reading through a speech given last month by Tom Donohue, the pugnacious president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to the Securities Industry Association in New York. What caught my eye was Donohue's complaint that as many as a thousand public companies wouldn't be able to comply with new rules requiring them and their auditors to document, test and certify the adequacy of their financial controls. As Donohue saw it, if a thousand American companies couldn't comply with a new requirement, there must be something wrong with the regulatory machine. Somehow it never occurred to him that the problem was with the companies.

  Senate, House split on malpractice
Union Leader
April 8, 2005
By Tom Fahey
The Senate passed a version of medical malpractice reform that critics say will die for lack of compromise with the House. The system the Senate adopted relies on a three-person panel similar to a system used in Maine that takes testimony and reviews evidence prior to a court trial. The House adopted by a 259-48 vote a system using a single judge, with an emphasis on mediation.



New malpractice proposal has eye on rates
Union Leader
April 6, 2005
By Tom Fahey
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a version of medical malpractice reform that would allow a three-member panel to review cases, but limit use of their findings in court.  The bill would allow both sides in a malpractice lawsuit to present an argument and expert witness reports, in a confidential hearing, to a panel composed of a judge, a lawyer and a doctor. Only if the panel was unanimous that the lawsuit had no merit would its finding would be admissible in court.



Lawsuits prompt push to expand ski areas' legal exemption in N.H.
Associated Press
April 3, 2005
By Erik Stetson
This year, the Legislature is considering a bill to add snowboarding and snowtubing as part of a broader expansion of immunity for resorts.  (Peter) Hutchins considers the bill an unwarranted response to the lawsuits. Supporters say it is simply a logical and long-overdue update to the law.


House OKs bill on medical malpractice insurance
Nashua Telegraph
April 1, 2005
By Kevin Landrigan
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly sided with the trial lawyers over the medical lobby Thursday in fashioning legislation aimed at controlling the future cost of medical malpractice insurance rates. Nashua Democrat Rep. Bette Lasky and Amherst Republican Rep. Robert Rowe crafted the compromise (HB 702), which would bring every suit to a screening judge who would have subpoena power. The judge would have the power to decide if the injury makes the doctor liable or if the case is merely an unfortunate medical result. The judge’s finding could not be admissible at trial.



Medical malpractice lawsuit measure OK'd
Union Leader
April 1, 2005
By Tom Fahey
By a lopsided vote yesterday, the New Hampshire House passed a bill that sets up a review process for all medical malpractice lawsuits that relies on a single expert judge. ... The House also passed a so-called "I'm sorry" bill, favored by the legal community, that allows a doctor to apologize in cases that don't come out right, but bars the apology from being used as evidence of liability in a court case. ...On another medical malpractice issue, the House killed HB 530, which would have limited non-economic damages to $250,000 in medical malpractice cases.



House passes amended version of ski liability law
Union Leader
April 1, 2005
By Paula Tracy
The House yesterday voted to support an update in the 1978 skier and ski area responsibility law, which extends the same inherent risk protections to the operator for those engaged in snow tubing, snowboarding and activities in terrain parks.



Bills pit doctors vs. lawyers: House, Senate to hear malpractice legislation
Concord Monitor
March 30, 2005
By Anne Ruderman
With two radically different medical malpractice bills making their way through the House and the Senate, doctors and lawyers seem to be more at odds than ever regarding malpractice insurance and what should be done about it.



Rift over malpractice still brewing between state’s doctors and lawyers
Foster's Daily Democrat
March 23, 2005
By Colin Manning
A House committee has come to agreement in addressing the medical malpractice issue, but it has not healed the rift between the state’s doctors and lawyers. The House Judiciary Committee is poised to recommend a compromise which would create a method for malpractice cases to be screened before going to trial in the hopes both sides can reach a settlement. However, the proposal (HB 702) the committee is considering fits into the position of the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association and is the exact opposite of what the New Hampshire Medical Society wants.



Malpractice Reform Needs Different Focus
Nashua Telegraph
March 21, 2005
Even doctors agree, in recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, that frivolous lawsuits are not a big problem in New Hampshire. So why the pressure on plaintiffs? Where is the pressure on insurance companies to prove that their premiums are justified by the claims experience of New Hampshire doctors?  This debate has been framed mostly as doctors versus lawyers, but the big movers behind the scenes have been the insurance companies, whose profits are at stake. Represented by the New Hampshire Joint Underwriting Association, they appear to want a legislative remedy but are reluctant to submit to legislative scrutiny as to their management practices and financial performance.



Ski Industry, Trial Lawyers Argue Inherent Risk Law
Union Leader
March 18, 2005
By Paula Tracy
Leaders of the state's ski industry and trial lawyers were on opposite sides of a bill yesterday that looks to revise the 1978 skier safety and ski area responsibility law. ... Jim Demers, representing the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association, said the measure expands immunity "far beyond what we would give any other business in this state."  And fellow trial attorney Jim Townsend said the bill "is not balanced" and would allow ski areas to become lax on safety, because they would be free of fears of lawsuits.  "This is not a balance" between user and operator, he argued. "They can create an absolute hazard and have almost absolute immunity."



Status grim in medical malpractice reform
Union Leader
March 16, 2005
By Anne Saunders (Associated Press)
Lawyers and doctors are no closer to agreeing on medical malpractice reform this year than they were last — a problem that could kill reform again this year. "What we're trying to accomplish is to get a fair system and to lower the costs," Dr. Gary Woods told the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.  But Matthew Cox, president-elect of the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association, pointed to a New England Journal of Medicine article that reviewed reforms in other states and found there was little effect on insurance premiums. The trial lawyers lobbyist, Jim Demers, suggested legislators look to the insurance companies for answers.



Malpractice issue: How much of a physician’s apology should be evidence in court?
Foster's Daily Democrat
March 16, 2005
By Colin Manning
Both sides of the medical malpractice issue agree a doctor should be allowed to tell a patient they’re sorry if something goes wrong during the course of treatment. However, the state’s doctors and lawyers are still bitterly divided over how much of that apology should be admitted as evidence in court. The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Monday on two separate yet similar bills which would allow a doctor to tell a patient, “I’m sorry.”  The New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association is backing legislation (HB 584) which would prevent any apology from being used in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The New Hampshire Medical Society is supporting a nearly identical bill (HB 463) which would also bar any apology from being introduced in court proceedings, but goes a step further by preventing any admission of “fault” from being admissible as evidence.



N.H. Lawmakers Hear Conflicting Testimony on Medical Malpractice
Fosters Daily Democrat
March 15, 2005
By Anne Saunders for Associated Press
Lawyers and doctors are no closer to agreeing on medical malpractice reform this year than they were last — a problem that could kill reform again this year. ... But Matthew Cox, president-elect of the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association, pointed to a New England Journal of Medicine article that reviewed reforms in other states and found there was little effect on insurance premiums.  The trial lawyers lobbyist, Jim Demers, suggested legislators look to the insurance companies for answers.



OP-ED: False Diagnosis
New York Times
March 10, 2005
By Bernard Black, Charles Silver, David Hyman and William Sage
No one disputes that insurance premiums have risen significantly. The question is whether a crisis in states' tort systems accounts for the increase. Consider Mr. Bush's home state of Texas, America's second most populous state and the third largest in terms of total health care spending. After studying a database maintained by the Texas Department of Insurance that contains all insured malpractice claims resolved between 1988 and 2002, we saw no evidence of a tort crisis.



Tort for Tat: Fighting to a Draw in the Battle of the Briefing Books, Proponents of Tort Reform are Winning the Rhetorical War
Washington Post
March 7, 2005
Terry M. Neal
Republicans long ago recognized the challenge of selling the idea of restricted access to courts and limiting jury awards, and redefined the issue as a crusade for basic consumer rights. The challenge was to make sure voters didn't see tort reform as an effort to please the GOP's base of donors from large insurers and corporations. ...  Republicans have so far been successful in their efforts to limit class action lawsuits, and have other tort reforms in their sights. They are winning because they control the rhetoric, not because they are armed with undisputed facts. ... For its part, the National Bureau of Economic Research, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan think tank, found that malpractice payments don't seem to be the driving force behind recent increases in consumer premiums.



"Tort Reform" Triumphs
The Nation
March 7, 2005
By Dan Zegart
Nothing could better illustrate the pending extinction of civil action as a tool for fighting corporate criminality than a measure that will effectively do away with many types of class-action lawsuits. ... Not satisfied with nibbling away at the welfare state, already the thinnest in the industrialized West, conservatives have spent more than twenty years demonizing lawyers and ridiculing victims in order to eliminate a uniquely American right, rooted in the Seventh Amendment, that allows juries to assess damages in civil courts for corporate misbehavior.



Lawmakers Push Legal Aid Bill
Nashua Telegraph
March 2, 2005
Andrew Nelson
Efforts are again under way in the Legislature to open a legal office here to serve the poor. Democratic Sens. David Gottesman and Joe Foster are pushing for a $20 surcharge on most civil court filings in the state to pay for a New Hampshire Legal Aid office.  The proposal would open a Nashua office for the nonprofit legal agency to work with the elderly, poor, disabled, and others with “survival needs.”



Your Turn, NH:
Ski Areas Need Less Legal Immunity, Not More

Union Leader
February 22, 2005
By Ric Paul
As a civil investigator, with ski patrol and EMS experience, I've had to scratch the surface and find the realities. They no longer support broad immunity and they do not support the idea that economic disaster looms if the law is not expanded. Now is not back when.



Behind Those Medical Malpractice Rates
New York Times
February 22, 2005
By Joseph B. Treaster and Joel Brinkley
For all the worry over higher medical expenses, legal costs do not seem to be at the root of the recent increase in malpractice insurance premiums. Government and industry data show only a modest rise in malpractice claims over the last decade. And last year, the trend in payments for malpractice claims against doctors and other medical professionals turned sharply downward, falling 8.9 percent, to a nationwide total of $4.6 billion, according to data compiled by the Health and Human Services Department.



Tort Reform will Butcher "Do No Harm"
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
February 17, 2005
By Jay Bookman
The "tort reform" bill approved by the Georgia Legislature and signed into law this week by Gov. Sonny Perdue may prove to be one of the most destructive pieces of legislation enacted in the state in years. Senate Bill 3 cripples the legal system, not accidentally as a wayward scalpel might, but intentionally. It is designed to prevent juries from delivering the justice that they are charged to produce, even in the worst cases of malpractice by doctors and hospitals.



A Dismal Class-Action Finale
New York Times
February 12, 2005
Senator Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat, got it exactly right when he pronounced the limits on class-action lawsuits approved on Thursday by the Senate a bad idea whose time has come. Instead of narrowly focusing on real abuses of the system, the measure reconfigures the civil justice system to achieve a significant rollback of corporate accountability and people's rights. The main impact of the bill - which has the sort of propagandistic title normally assigned to such laws, the Class Action Fairness Act - will be to funnel nearly all major class-action lawsuits out of state courts and into already overburdened federal courts. That will inevitably make it harder for Americans to pursue legitimate claims successfully against companies that violate state consumer, health, civil rights and environmental protection laws.



N.H. Trial Lawyers Association says:
Insurance Companies May Hold the Key to Malpractice Mess
Foster's Daily Democrat
January 25, 2005
By Colin Manning
As New Hampshire lawyers and doctors continue their fight over medical malpractice reform, there is an interested third party laughing all the way to the bank, according to the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association.  "While we’re on either side of our Berlin Wall with the medical profession, there’s someone else on the field who is enjoying the show and that’s the insurance industry," said Chuck Douglas, a Concord attorney and former Congressman and state Supreme Court justice.



Guest Commentary:
Insurance Companies Have Too Much Control Over Our Lives
Union Leader
January 17, 2005
By Scott Rich
Frivolous lawsuits are an excuse. Juries and judges do not allow unharmed people to collect millions of dollars for nothing.  It is because of negligence and incompetence. Insurance companies simply do not want to give people what they are paying for, in my opinion. ... I think it is time for insurance reform before they completely control our lives.



OP-ED: A Gift for Drug Makers
New York Times
January 14, 2005
By Bob Herbert
Vioxx, Celebrex, Prozac.... With all the problems and the bad publicity that drug companies have been facing recently, you might think that this would not be a good time for the Bush administration to toss yet another bonanza their way.  If the malpractice legislation so relentlessly touted by President Bush became law, Pfizer, Merck and Eli Lilly would be immunized against even the possibility of punitive damages arising from any harm to patients that resulted from use of these drugs.... The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, was blunt on the matter. He said, "Congress should not be giving a free pass to big drug companies at a time when millions of Americans may have had their health put at risk by pharmaceutical giants."



Medical Malpractice "Crisis" is Nothing New
Baltimore Chronicle
January 10, 2005
J. Russell Tyldelsley
Being in the insurance business, I can tell you that medical malpractice insurance has been a crisis for at least 40 years. When, one might ask, does it stop becoming a “crisis” and simply become an issue that has yet to be seriously confronted?



Editorial: A Cure for Malpractice
Boston Globe
January 10, 2005
The problem with medical malpractice is not that a jury occasionally awards $1 million in pain and suffering damages to a victim but that so much malpractice occurs in the first place. This is often overlooked by those whose approach to the malpractice problem begins and ends with putting a cap on damages to victims.



Editorial: The Hype over Tort Reform: Rhetoric over Reality
Philadelphia Inquirer
January 10, 2005
If President Bush plans to rail against the supposed crippling impact of medical malpractice lawsuits on health-care access and costs, he shouldn't go to Madison County, Ill., anymore. ... Both Madison and a neighboring county are seeing a decline in malpractice awards these days, with only one of six malpractice verdicts issued over seven years topping $1 million. ... Far worse than "junk lawsuits" would be junk lawmaking that scuttles basic legal protections for citizens.



Editorial: So Much for Facts on Tort Reform
The Roanoke Times
January 10, 2005
By Tommy Denton
Beware "judicial hellholes," President Bush warned last week, taking particular aim at Madison County and St. Clair County during his visit to Illinois.  According to the president, roving bands of predatory trial lawyers have been rending the very fabric of the nation by seeking rapacious awards from naive and/or runaway juries, based on "frivolous" and probably malicious grounds. Of particular concern are the consequences of medical malpractice lawsuits, which according to the president, are threatening penury for physicians and bankruptcy for hospitals if the rapacious tort system is not flogged into submission.   In the president's view, Madison and St. Clair counties represent a microcosm of the cancer that gnaws away at all that is good and decent in American society. Why, hang those scurrilous trial lawyers!   All of which has a tendency to stimulate a rush of retributive indignation - except for the existence of actual evidence to the contrary, both in Madison and St. Clair counties and in the nation generally.



Editorial: Award Caps Not Solution to Tort Reform Problem
Macon Telegraph
January 9, 2005
Tort reform has become a national and statewide cause celebre. It is a signature concern of President George W. Bush's second term, and it's high on the priority list again this year of Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. The reform proposals in President Bush's package, however, include legal system changes more far-reaching than just in medical malpractice cases. But it was a proposal for caps on non-economic damages in those cases that he rolled out first last week, with great fanfare. In Georgia, Perdue and the business community have joined with medical groups lobbying for the same cure to a problem - but have left too many other solutions unexplored.



Editorial: Malpractice Mythology
The New York Times
January 9, 2005
"Tort reform," the Bush administration's answer to the problem of high medical malpractice costs, makes sense from only one aspect: the political. The genius of tort reform, which focuses on putting a cap on the awards from malpractice suits, is that it offends only one big-money lobbying group: trial lawyers, who are important financial supporters of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, it helps or holds harmless Republican special interests in the insurance, drug and health care industries. The only problem is that it hurts the hapless patients who suffer grievous harm at the hands of incompetent doctors.



Editorial: Wrong Medicine
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
January 7, 2005
The answers to lowering the fiscal effects of medical malpractice lie not with arbitrarily limiting compensation to injured patients but with bolstering identification and discipline of dangerous doctors and better regulation of the medical malpractice insurance industry.