Monday, February 10, 2003

William P. Logan writes:
I think that the vast majority of people who
complain about the jury system have never been on a jury and probably
try to get excused whenever they get called. Six years ago (1997) I
was on a jury in an asbestos trial in San Francisco, CA, which is
normally thought of as having liberal (i.e. pro-plaintiff) juries.
Unfortunately for the plaintiffs in this trial, their cases got
defensed. The San Francisco Superior Court consolidates its asbestos
cases into groups based on type of injury and the firm filing the suit,
so there were six different plaintiffs in the one trial. The verdicts
(again, all for the defense) varied from 12-0 to 9-3. In short, we
felt that although some of the plaintiffs had quite serious medical
problems, it was not more probable than not that their problems were
due to their asbestos exposure.

Quite frankly, based on my experience as a trial juror, my respect for
the jury system has increased tremendously from what it was beforehand.

Meanwhile, Dr. Christopher May reports that most of his colleagues would not only like to see trial lawyers put out of business, but "tarred and feathered" as well. Which, of course, shows how difficult it is to have any kond of meaningful discourse on this subject. He says: "We see the whole system as being as random as a lightning bolt and having very little to do with quality of care." At the same time, he denies seeing the arrogance and "God complex" that is observed in many doctors by so many others.

I'm willing to bet that if you asked 10 trial lawyers about their philosophies re: case screening and their relationships with doctors, you would have nine of them say that they are as strict as I am in how they decide which cases to run with. As I have posted before, it's difficult, if not impossible, to remain in business if you pursue the marginal cases regularly. Dr. May's polite but ridiculous overgeneralizations, e.g., "Why sacrifice and study for half your life, only to see your house and everything you own
vanish in a puff of smoke, to reappear as a plaintiff attorney's Learjet?" make me crazy. If my law practice, or the law practice of any lawyer I know, allowed me or them to have a lear jet, then maybe I wouldn't comment. But the truth is that there are a lot more insanely wealthy doctors than there are lawyers. Oh, and by the way, we lawyers have sacrificed and studied half our lives, too. Consider that maybe we're not idiots, and that we operate with ethics and responsibility [we do, you know].

The bottom line is, as stated previously, that the insurance companies are at the bottom of this perceived problem, even to the point of creating the perception of a problem. We keep taking at its word Big Insurance's contention that high verdicts are the cause of the increase in malpractice premiums. I don't believe it, and I have been shown no independent data to support the bald assertion. Why did my firm's health insurance go up over 25% -- the trial lawyers? Big Insurance is scapegoating the trial lawyers as a group, and they are using Big Lie techniques [say it loud and long and hard, and people will eventually believe you] to sell their message. Dr. Goebbels used much the same techniques in the 1930s and 40s. Unfortunately, the doctors are being squeezed into being used as the tools of Big Insurance in its quest for ever-greater profit.

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