True costs of Jackpot Justice 

Next time your doctor orders lots of blood tests and MRIs, you will be experiencing a slice of the estimated $124 billion annually in unnecessary costs imposed on American health care providers through malpractice and other liability lawsuits. Doctors call it "defensive medicine" when they order lots of mostly unnecessary, time-consuming and expensive tests for fear of being sued.

Their fears are well-grounded, thanks to the legions of personal liability lawyers routinely suing doctors, hospitals, nurses, medical suppliers, drug companies and anybody else in the health care system with potentially deep pockets, often for the most tenuous of reasons. Many of these ambulance chasers specialize in filing lawsuits in states with poorly written laws and juries ready to deliver massive damage awards. Readers are encouraged to see today’s second installment of the two-part series by The Examiner’s Micah Morrison on "Understanding class-action lawsuits."

There are other, more serious costs and not just in health care, according to "Jackpot Justice: The true cost of America’s tort system," a new study from the conservative Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.

The study is the most comprehensive ever done on the direct and indirect costs of allowing personal liability lawyers virtual free rein in our courts in recent decades, according to the PRI. Among the other health care costs calculated by the PRI are an estimated 3.4 million people who can’t get insurance because of excessive premiums and, worst of all, 114,000 people who "would be alive and working today, but are not due to inefficiencies in the tort system over the last two decades" that delayed critically needed new drugs and treatments.

Overall, tort abuse costs the American people $865 billion a year, or $2.4 billion 365 days a year. That’s 27 times as much as the federal government spends protecting Americans from terrorists each year, 30 times what the National Institutes for Health spending annually research cures for deadly diseases and 13 times the amount devoted to school aid by the U.S. Education Department. The losses include 51,000 jobs destroyed by asbestos-related litigation alone, plus the $559 million in pensions those workers would have received. Then there is the $684 billion in lost shareholder value and $367 billion in lost product sales due to lowered research investment.

Limited reforms have been enacted in recent years at the state and federal level but much remains to be done to restore the healthy balance needed in the legal system to ensure that everybody gets a fair shake on their day in court.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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