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'Tort Reform, Industry Reform'

August 13, 1986

I have one question regarding your long overdue editorial: Where have you been?

Indeed, so-called tort reform "could" produce undesirable side effects, jeopardizing the rights of wronged individuals to obtain compensation. Caps on contingency fees and awards "might" prevent poor plaintiffs from getting into court; and infringe on a prerogative more properly left to the juries and judges who hear the evidence.

Yet these things, and more, are already happening to thousands of injured persons--the victims of medical malpractice. In 1975, the Legislature passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act ("MICRA"). This invidious law discriminates against medical malpractice victims by severely limiting the compensation they can receive and by limiting their ability to obtain a competent attorney, while putting no such limits on the wrongdoer.

Doctors themselves are victimized by their own insurance companies. These companies have jacked up premiums to outrageous levels, yet have not opened their books or explained their shell-game accounting techniques. They hysterically blame jury verdicts shown (by their own studies) to have barely kept pace with inflation and population growth. And they fail to take responsibility for their own sloppy business practices, which have resulted in the increased premiums.

Medical malpractice victims, and soon, perhaps, the rest of us, are to be denied our fundamental right to our day in court; representation by the attorney of our choice; and adequate compensation for injuries caused by another's wrongdoing. Insurance companies whine and moan that these basic liberties must go, so that they may increase their already fat profits.

Injured and disabled people are subsidizing a multibillion-dollar industry, while insurance executives are crying all the way to the bank.


Beverly Hills

Dr. Kussman is president of the Committee for Patients' Rights.

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