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Press Release

    Settlement Week is Not Enough

    01/19/2005

    This past December, Rhode Island’s Superior Court went through the 12th anniversary of “settlement week” in an attempt to reduce its overgrown caseload. While the week was a success with 74 percent of cases settled, it won’t solve the problem of lawsuit abuse. That’s why FreedomWorks urges Rhode Island to enact comprehensive tort and medical malpractice reforms.

    Indeed, junk lawsuits are running rampant in the Ocean State. Harris Interactive conducted a poll of corporate lawyers and ranked the state 36th in terms of a “fair and reasonable litigation environment.”

    A cumbersome caseload is not the only problem that comes with the smallest state’s legal crisis. While abusive class action lawsuits are directed at companies, the cost is passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices and workers in the form of lost jobs. In fact, every American pays $809 per year because of frivolous lawsuits.

    No doubt, the worst aspect of junk lawsuits is medical malpractice abuse. Suits against competent doctors have caused malpractice insurance premiums to skyrocket—especially in high risk practices. The American Medical Association rated Rhode Island as a state “showing problem signs” that could lead to a full-blown medical malpractice crisis. Already, doctors have been forced to limit practices, denying care to many Rhode Islanders.

    Governor Carcieri proposed a number of common-sense reforms for the state’s legal system earlier last year. Unfortunately, the state legislature never voted on his plan.

    FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe commented:

    “’Settlement week’ just isn’t enough: the Ocean State is in desperate need of tort reform. The state’s crowded docket is just another indication that attorneys are raking in millions from frivolous lawsuits while the rest of Rhode Island foots the bill. Even though lawsuit abuse is a national problem, Rhode Island should join the growing number of states that have enacted class action reform and medical malpractice reform.”

    “FreedomWorks applauds Governor Carcieri because of his efforts to bring justice to Rhode Island’s courts, and we urge him to continue these efforts in 2005. We also call on the General Assembly to bring legal reforms—especially medical malpractice reform—to a vote.”

    “FreedomWorks activists know that the real solution to America’s lawsuit abuse crisis is tort reform on the federal level. However, Rhode Island FreedomWorks will also work hard to enact state laws that curb junk lawsuits.”