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February 2012 Archives

Update on Tort Reform

Tort reform initiatives are gaining momentum.  As we have reported, several states are currently considering various tort reform initiatives that would cap the amount of damages that plaintiffs can recover in certain personal injury lawsuits, such as those involving allegations of medical malpractice.   The latest state to introduce tort reform legislation is Pennsylvania.  The proposed Pennsylvania legislation specifically targets Philadelphia, which has been has long been maligned by defendants in the personal injury lawsuits. Currently, plaintiffs are allowed to litigate their claims in Philadelphia from anywhere in the state, but under the proposed bill, Pennsylvania's local courts could only hear personal injury cases when the plaintiff is a resident, a corporation is locally headquartered, or the incident occurred in that district. Pennsylvania is also seeking to reform the way the state handles joint and several liability in personal injury actions.  In June 2011, Pennsylvania limited joint and several liability damages to a defendant's share of the verdict if the defendant was less than 60% liable.  Previously, plaintiffs were allowed to recover for 100% of their award from any defendant, even those who were minimally liable. Other state governments that are considering tort reform include Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Texas.  For instance, Texas governor Rick Perry wants to limit non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, at $250,000 in medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors and $750,000 for medical malpractice lawsuits against hospitals.  Proponents of tort reform believe that limiting recovery in medical malpractice cases will help the nation's health care system by reducing malpractice insurance costs for doctors and health care providers.   Gov. Perry's personal injury reform initiatives in Texas began in 2003 with the passage of legislation that limited the amount of money a plaintiff could receive in a medical malpractice Update on Tort Reform lawsuit. Tort reform initiatives, such as those that seek to impose damage caps, face a number of hurdles, however.  Caps on damages may be deemed unconstitutional since the Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a trial by jury in civil cases based on common law, which imposes no caps on civil trial damage awards by juries.  Moreover, medical malpractice tort reform undoubtedly hurts patients and the public by failing to hold doctors, hospitals and other medical professionals financially responsible for their injuries or deaths that they have caused.  As we recently reported, the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits are not frivolous.  In fact, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health analyzing more than 1,400 medical malpractice claims concluded that the majority of medical malpractice claims were meritorious and involved "injuries due to error," with 80% involving death or serious injury.   Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  ( is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.

NTSB Urges Nationwide Ban on Texting While Driving

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for a nationwide ban on texting and making phone calls while driving.  The NTSB's recommendation specifically asks all 50 states and Washington D.C. to ban all nonemergency use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices for all drivers. The NTSB is also recommending that states use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) method of high-visibility enforcement to support such bans, and that states implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new laws. "According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in a statement.  "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life." In the last several years, the use of cell phones and personal electronic devices has exploded, according to the NTSB. Globally, there are 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers, which accounts for 77 percent of the world population. Nationwide, the percentage of cell phone users is even higher, exceeding 100 percent. Texting and talking on a cell phone while driving can be incredibly dangerous, causing auto accidents and trucking accidents.  In 2009, nearly 5,500 fatalities and 500,000 injuries resulted from crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the NHTSA.  The NTSB's recommendation is based on the investigation of several accidents caused by the use of electronic devices in recent years, including:

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