Nevada Trial Lawyers Part of Petition Drive Coalition

June 11, 2004

The Nevada Trial Lawyers Association is supporting two statewide initiative petitions that critics say aim to overturn medical malpractice reforms.

Trial Lawyers Association spokeswoman Vickie Riley confirmed the group is a member of People for a Better Nevada, the coalition collecting signatures to qualify the measures for the November ballot.

“The association thinks this is good public policy and an essential vehicle to accomplishing meaningful insurance reform,” she said.

While the trial lawyers group is prohibited from funding the petition drive, Riley said individual members can contribute money to get the measures qualified.

State Sen. Sandra Tiffany, R-Henderson, said there’s no question the measures are an effort to repeal caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.

“They are tricking the voters,” she said.

The petitions must be turned in by June 15. A report of contributions and expenses for the effort is due at the secretary of state’s office Aug. 31.

One measure is a constitutional amendment to roll back auto insurance rates 20 percent. It could also lead to the elimination of caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.

The other measure, called the Stop Frivolous Lawsuits and Protect Your Legal Rights Act, contains a provision prohibiting limits on attorneys fees.

Amid skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates, the state Legislature in 2002 enacted a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, with some exceptions.

Doctors have put on the November ballot a more comprehensive reform measure that would eliminate any exceptions and limit attorney fees.

The rival initiatives backed by the trial lawyers and others would nullify the caps in 2007 if there’s no evidence that doctor insurance premiums and malpractice payouts hadn’t been reduced 10 percent per year since the reforms were in place.

If the measures qualify and pass in November, they would have to be approved again in 2006 to take effect.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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