Yesterday, New York City Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo gave a speech to the Citizens Budget Commission calling for tort reform as a solution to regain the city’s economic stability. The city paid out $561 million in tort related claims for 2011, an astronomically high number which could be drastically lowered by enacting various tort reforms. Said Cardozo, ”The tort laws must be changed to even the playing field.”
In his speech, he highlighted two major reforms which he says would lower the city’s payouts by $100 million; implementing a cap on non-economic damages and reforming the joint and several liability rule in our state.
In the fiscal year 2011/2012 budget, Governor Cuomo proposed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Unfortunately, it was not adopted. This reform would have eliminated skyrocketing “jackpot justice” awards, while still providing injured victims with full compensation for their medical expenses and lifetime care. Million-dollar jury awards in cases against NYC come from the pockets of tax payers. Cardozo explains that nearly half the states in the nation have limitations on pain and suffering awards.
The second reform that he spoke about was changes to the joint and several liability rule in New York. Currently, in cases with multiple defendants, a defendant who is just 1% at fault can be forced to pay 100% or the judgment if the other defendant is unable to pay their share. In motor vehicle cases, the less responsible defendant would also be responsible for paying the non-economic damages. Cardozo gives an example of a case where New York City was forced to pay the full amount of a $5.25 million judgment, even though it was found to be only 23% responsible.
“I could continue for hours giving examples of pro- plaintiff, anti-defendant, particularly anti-government, tort laws. Yet persuading the New York legislature to enact any tort reforms, even if only limited to governmental entities, is a difficult task, to say the least, but it is essential to stop this raid on the public fisc.[sic]” – Cardozo.
LRANY applauds these efforts made by Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo to spread the message of the need for tort reform in our state. Reforming our civil justice system and eliminating frivolous lawsuits could save the state millions and put money back into the pockets of taxpayers statewide.