Tort Reform Passes in the House

The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill yesterday 30-20 that would cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000.

One Republican, Rep. Lee Terry, agreed with me that core Republican values do not support this law because the bill is not consistent with the Commerce Clause, and the Tenth Amendment, the guarantees of equal protection and due process, and the right to a jury trial. (Actually, he just kinda says “state rights” but it sounded better that way.) “This preempts probably every (law) but California’s and Texas’ medical liability laws, so it is very clear that it violates states’ rights,” Terry said in voting against the bill.

American Tort Reform Association offers this genuinely tortured rationale of why a federal malpractice cap does not infringe on the Constitution. The funny thing is this paper cites law that you know conservatives fought tooth and nail to prevent. The bill itself also makes an effort to fight constitutional attack by putting some states’ rights mumbo jumbo in the bill. Painfully transparent.

The bill also has a cute little section to dramatically decrease attorneys’ fees in medical malpractice cases. This would be to discourage the six remaining lawyers still handling malpractice cases after this bill was passed.

States rights is a foundational principle… unless there is a good reason to leave it on the curb. You know other Republicans agreed with Terry but did not have the guts to follow their conviction for fear of being filleted in the primaries by someone running to their right.

Why is the House doing this? Because elections have consequences. These people were elected to do just this. They ran on this “stick it to the victim” platform. No one can be surprised.