Ballot Questions Dubious for Nev. Trial Lawyers

September 7, 2004

A group with ties to the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association doesn’t have to reveal contributors to its campaign to put two questions on the November ballot, one of its leaders says.

The group Yes on Questions 4 and 5 reported to the secretary of state that it received no cash contributions, but spent $326,000 in qualifying its petitions for the Nov. 2 ballot. Questions 4 and 5 are the insurance rate rollback and frivolous lawsuit measures favored by trial lawyers.

Instead of money, the group reported the nonprofit organization People for a Better Nevada paid all of its bills, including $276,000 to the Southwest Group for collecting signatures on petitions.

Gail Tuzzolo, the secretary to Yes on Questions 4 and 5 and a consultant to People for a Better Nevada, said the source of money to nonprofit organizations doesn’t have to be disclosed.

The Nevada Trial Lawyers Association called on its members in March to make contributions to the insurance rate rollback petition.

Besides calling for a 20 percent cut in insurance rates, the ballot question would nullify moves by the Keep Our Doctors in Nevada organization to place a $350,000 limit on the amount of pain and suffering damages patients can collect in medical malpractice cases.

Although the other ballot question calls for outlawing frivolous lawsuits, it also would prevent limits being placed on what lawyers can earn for representing their clients.

“Considering what the opposition is going to spend against us, our little amount of money is not going to concern anybody,” Tuzzolo said. “Nobody is trying to hide anything. The insurance companies and medical association are doing it the same way.”

But state Sen. Sandra Tiffany, who worked on the Keep Our Doctors in Nevada petition, said the failure to identify the source of contributions “is another dirty trick by lawyers.”

Tuzzolo on Monday registered Yes on Questions 4 and 5 as a political action committee and ballot advocacy group with the secretary of state. Previously, People for a Better Nevada had been spearheading the petition effort.

Las Vegas lawyer Beverly Salhanick is listed as the resident agent for both People for a Better Nevada and Yes on Questions 4 and 5. She also is treasurer of the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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