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This editorial appeared in the Charleston Daily Mailon Tuesday October 12, 2004
There's a real difference between
the candidates on this issue
Americans are concerned about where the good jobs are going to come from -- and about their health coverage. These are understandable concerns.
They should prompt voters to take a closer look at which would-be presidential administration is likely to take the nation in which direction.
One of the things that is clearly hurting American manufacturing is litigation. Not only must U.S. companies compete in a tough world marketplace, they must constantly defend themselves here at home.
The Institute for Legal Reform -- www.legalreformnow.com -- notes that "America's civil justice system is the world's most expensive, with a direct cost in 2001 of $205.4 billion . . . ."
Asbestos claims, for example, have cost companies $54 billion, and 67 firms have filed for bankruptcy. Total liability is expected to reach $250 billion.
That $250 billion can't be spent on new plants.
As for health care, same story.
The institute says the average medical malpractice verdict has increased since 1994 from $1.1 million to $3.5 million. One study said medical liability torts cost $21 billion in 2001.
Which ticket includes a highly successful personal injury lawyer? Sen. John Kerry's ticket, which picked up Sen. John Edwards. According to North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, he won more than 50 cases with verdicts or settlements of $1 million or more -- 31 of them medical malpractice suits.
His specialty was suing obstetrician-gynecologists on behalf of babies born with cerebral palsy. One of his biggest cases ended in a $23 million settlement.
Yet a 2003 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that the "vast majority of cerebral palsy cases originated long before the delivery room."
The lawsuit business has been good to personal injury lawyers. Edwards is worth an estimated $38 million. Personal injury lawyers have been generous contributors to Edwards' and Kerry's campaigns.
They can afford to be.
The question is whether a Kerry-Edwards administration, thus influenced, would contribute to econ-omic growth or solve the medical malpractice crisis.
Not at all likely.