NAMIC Supports President’s Commitment to Tort Reform

January 7, 2005

President Bush highlighted the need on Wednesday for common-sense medical liability reform to protect patients and to stop the skyrocketing costs associated with frivolous lawsuits. Bush also stressed the call for class action lawsuit and asbestos litigation reform, and he urged Congress to enact proposed reforms.

“We are extremely pleased to see the high priority President Bush is giving to the issue of legal reform,” said National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) Federal Affairs Senior Vice President, David A. Winston. “The President has indicated on several occasions recently his strong commitment to this legislation, including the White House Economic Summit in which he personally participated in a law suit abuse discussion.”

Responding to the President’s remarks on medical malpractice reform, Winston said, “The cost of medical malpractice insurance has skyrocketed in the past few years.” According to Winston, physicians in many states across the country have been unable to take on new patients, have had to relocate their practices or have even shut down their practices because they cannot afford it.

“These rate increases have brought about a growing number of malpractice claims, rising defense costs, and a reduced supply of available coverage. For example, since 1994 the average jury award in medical malpractice lawsuits has more than tripled,” he said.

On class action reform Winston stated, “This is one of our top priorities in the New Year. Due to the dramatic increase in the filing of class action lawsuits in the U.S. in the last decade-many of which are frivolous-our member companies, as well as other businesses in other industries, have been forced to divert their valuable resources from their businesses.”

“This vitally important measure almost made it through the Senate in the 108th Congress and had the support of 62 senators. The legislation is a balanced, common-sense solution that addresses the worst abuses of the class action process and rationalizes procedures, while preserving plaintiffs’ legal rights and providing additional protections for consumers,” he said.

“NAMIC is also very pleased to see the high priority attached to this legislation by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,” said Winston. “Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, chief sponsor of last year’s class action reform legislation, plans to reintroduce the Class Action Reform Bill later this month. The legislation will mirror the compromise bill from the 108th Congress. Senator Frist has indicated that he’d like to move the bill to the Senate floor in early February.”

“NAMIC strongly supports the President’s initiative and will work with the Administration and Congress to help get Class Action Reform legislation enacted. Winston said.”

Winston concluded on asbestos reform, “We fully support having standard medical criteria that would prioritize compensation for asbestos victims. NAMIC has long-supported legislation that would make actual impairment an essential element of a claim by requiring evidence of physical impairment and specifies criteria to make such judgments.”

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