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Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo calls for tort reform

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.

WNY – Progress on malpractice reform

“Western New York is already home to drug courts and mental health courts that have attracted attention for achieving positive results. Now, patterned after an effort originating in the Bronx, Buffalo’s new medical malpractice court is handling cases involving hospitals affiliated with the Catholic and Kaleida Health systems and Erie County Medical Center. Eventually, it is expected to handle all malpractice lawsuits filed in State Supreme Court in Erie County.

The goal, according to Judge Judy Harris Kluger, the state court system’s chief of policy and planning, is to “help speed the process of medical malpractice cases,” aiming to reduce litigation costs and help ensure fair and appropriate resolutions. When fair resolutions are reached in the early stages of a court action, years of litigation and massive legal expenses can be avoided.

Malpractice costs are among the factors that not only drive up the costs of health care in New York but also drive out doctors, especially those practicing in high-risk specialities such as obstetrics. Anything that lowers those costs could also lower malpractice insurance rates and help to slow the outflow of medical talent.”

Read More from this Buffalo New Editorial.

 

LRANY applauds the creation of a medical malpractice court in Buffalo and is working to bring similar steps towards reform throughout the state.

The commission has spoken – New York judges will get the pay raise they deserve

On Friday, the commission appointed by Gov. Cuomo to decide whether or not  to grant the New York judges a pay raise voted 4 to 3 to approve an increase of 27% over 3 years.  Our judges have gone 12 years without a raise and were some of the lowest paid judges in any state.

LRANY supports  fair compensation for NY judges.  Our judges have strong opportunities in the private sector and they need to be fairly compensated for the work that they perform on behalf of the state.  The judges in our system are talented and experienced judges whose compensation must be kept fair and current to ensure their retention.

Read LRANY’s Statement.

Pay for Lawsuits Before They’ve Been Filed?

The proposal by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to set up a lawsuit slush fund paid for by fees from gas drillers shows how backward New York’s legal system really is.  To ask businesses to pay for lawsuits that do not exist is to pour blood in the water and invite trial attorneys to file lawsuits against the fund.

Mr. DiNapoli asserts that preventing accidents is the “first priority,” but this fund will not make drill sites safer, indeed, if businesses have to pay for damages whether or not an accident has occurred, the fund may have the opposite effect and once again stand in the way of economic development.

‘Lawsuit lottery’ must be limited

The recent Washington County home explosion which killed five is being investigated but not just by the proper authorities but also by a local law firm looking, on behalf of the victims’ families, for someone to sue.  Surely, if there was negligence or wrongdoing in this instance, someone should be held accountable the victims compensation but when a law firm is doing the investigation, can we really trust that their findings will be that objective?

Click here to read a letter to the editor in the Albany Times Union written by our Executive Director, Tom Stebbins.

New York’s litigation-friendly laws hurt business

Most everyone would agree that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been uniquely successful in getting his agenda passed through a Legislature that was completely dysfunctional not too long ago.

So, what’s next? Reforming New York’s antiquated and stifling legal system has wide support and would provide millions in economic development at no cost to the state. By enacting lawsuit reform the government will stimulate the economy and save money, since municipalities are often the target of lawsuit abuse.

Read more of this op-ed written by our Executive Director Tom Stebbins here.

LRANY Supports Fair Compensation for Justices

An article published yesterday in The New York Times showcases the fact that for the first time in New York History, judges are actually leaving the bench, not to retire, but to return to practicing law.  A recent study showed nearly 1 in 10 judges leaving annually.

Judges in New York are required to be lawyers and in most cases have practiced law in New York for at least 10 years prior to appointment.  Our judges have strong opportunities in the private sector and they need to be fairly compensated for the work that they perform on behalf of the state.  The judges in our system are talented and experienced judges whose compensation must be kept fair and current to ensure their retention.

LRANY supports the review of judicial salaries and supports fair compensation for judges dedicated service to New York.

Read LRANY’s Statement.

 

“New Yorkers Should Not Be Asked to Choose Between Patient Safety and Tort Reform. They Deserve Both.”

Dr. Howard Minkoff, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Maimonides Medical Center, wrote a great op-ed in the Sunday, April 17 Times Union which points out the disingenuous nature of the arguments against malpractice reform in New York State.  Click here to see the whole article.  LRANY continues to work to keep this critical issue alive in the Legislature.  Keep posted for more details!