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 Volume XXVI April 26, 2005 

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"As many of us have seen firsthand, questionable lawsuits drive up the cost of health care, threaten access to doctors, hospitals and life-saving medications, and discourage medical innovation &. We still have about 20 states in a health care crisis in large because of the legal climate. Lawsuit abuse is a real problem &. All of America needs comprehensive reforms that put patients and doctors back in control of decisions that affect patient health." - Texas Governor Rick Perry, Sick of Lawsuits Web chat, March 23, 2005

Lawsuit Abuse News

More lawsuit abuse news on

Puzzling Prescription
"Merck asked yesterday for the dismissal of the first Vioxx personal injury lawsuit scheduled to come to trial, contending that a man who died of a heart attack after being prescribed Vioxx never took the drug. The pharmaceutical company says that the man's widow has repeatedly lied and produced false evidence &. Ms. Rogers initially said that her husband 'took Vioxx for a long time on a very regular basis.' When Merck's lawyers pressed her for details, she said that he had visited a doctor on Aug. 10, 2001, 25 days before he died, and received a prescription for Vioxx. But the prescription was never filled, according to Merck &. Ms. Rogers then changed her story &. [claiming] that her husband had been given three sample packs, totaling 96 pills &. Suspicious of Ms. Rogers's story, Merck checked the samples, which federal rules require be closely tracked. The company said its records showed that the samples did not arrive at its distribution warehouse until March 2002, six months after Mr. Rogers died." The New York Times, April 13, 2005

Million Dollar Cure
"Medical malpractice lawsuits have been driving up the costs of health care for decades. In recent years, they have actually started to limit patient access to quality care &. [In] 2002, the malpractice cost to Americans was $25 billion - or $250 per American household &. Lottery-size awards drive the problem. The average award increased from $700,000 in 1999 to more than $1 million in 2001. Seven of the top 20 lawsuit awards in 2001 and 2002 were for malpractice resulting in a combined cost of $3 billion. Up to 40% of the awards wind up in the pockets of lawyers &.

A 2002 study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that [a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages], if taken national, would reduce health care costs by up to 9%, or $108 billion a year &. With more than $100 billion at stake, malpractice legislation is one prescription that needs to be filled." Commentary by Sally C. Pipes, Pacific Research Institute, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 3, 2005

Questionable Diagnosis
"[In] Federal District Court in Corpus Christi, Tex. last month several doctors testified that they diagnosed silicosis in patients they had never met or interviewed &. Evidence was entered in the Texas court that some doctors had little training in how to interpret X-rays to find signs of the illness and they reached their conclusions after spending just minutes looking at an X-ray. Some doctors backed away from their conclusions. One of them, Ray A. Harron, interrupted his own testimony to ask for a lawyer. Questions about Dr. Harron's diagnoses may undermine his prior diagnoses that more than 50,000 Manville trust claimants suffered from asbestosis &. Dr. Harron, who identified silicosis in a patient previously evaluated as suffering from asbestosis, was asked where the first illness went. He responded, 'I don't know.'" The New York Times, April 6, 2005

Sick Of Lawsuits

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) used recent legislative debates on the state's medical liability crisis to take its Sick of Lawsuits campaign on the road. I-LAW sponsored radio and billboard advertisements around the state. Executive Director Steve Schoeffel traveled with the Sick of Lawsuits billboard truck to raise awareness of the impact of lawsuit abuse on the state's healthcare system. The tour received coverage from local media outlets, including the Madison County Record and Alton Telegraph.

Legislative Update

Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law H.B. 416, legislation to reform asbestos and silica litigation. The bill includes minimum medical criteria for the filing of asbestos and silica claims and guidelines allowing claims to only be brought or maintained by Georgia residents. - The Associated Press, April 12, 2005

South Carolina
Governor Mark Sanford signed into law a bill to reform the state's medical liability system. The law places a $350,000 limit on non-economic damage awards and increases standards for expert witness testimony. In signing the bill, Sanford noted, "What this bill is fundamentally about is lowering the cost of medicine &. It's fundamentally about having medicine practiced by doctors, not by lawyers." - The Associated Press, April 5, 2005

Our Broken Healthcare Liability System

The Stats

$60,000: Amount of campaign contributions the law firm filing the first Vioxx case in Alabama made to the judge who will be hearing the case. "Judge in Vioxx suit got money from firm's PAC," The Associated Press, April 24, 2005

$161 million: Total amount of money awarded by Cook County, Illinois jurors in 30 medical malpractice cases in 2004. Seven of these verdicts were more than $10 million. "I Wanted to Help the Little Guy," Chicago Sun-Times, March 13, 2005

One-third: Decrease in the number of neurosurgeons practicing in Pennsylvania over the past ten years. With a population of about 12 million, the state is short more than 30 neurosurgeons due to its medical liability crisis. "Medevacs More Common," The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 18, 2005

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