Personal Injury Blog

U.S. House of Representatives Advances Several Bills to Limit Plaintiffs' Right to Compensation in Court

By: Matthew Tievsky

Since the election, the U.S. House of Representatives has considered several bills which, if passed into law, would significantly limit the right of personal injury plaintiffs to seek justice in courts across the nation. Many of these bills are promoted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups with a financial interest in preventing or limiting personal injury lawsuits.

For example, the proposed “Protecting Access to Care Act” would limit awards of noneconomic damages to $250,000 in medical malpractice cases. This means that, for example, if a doctor were to negligently and permanently disable you during surgery, you would not be entitled to more than $250,000 for your pain and suffering, no matter how severe. Such legal caps on awards take the power of decision-making away from juries, composed of ordinary citizens, and put that power in the hands of politicians instead.

To take another example, the proposed “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act” would permit class action lawsuits (lawsuits filed on behalf of hundreds or thousands of people at a time) in federal court only if every person who was harmed, suffered practically the same injury as everyone else. This would make it much harder to maintain class action lawsuits in federal court, and deprive plaintiffs of a useful tool for justice in which it is too difficult or expensive for every plaintiff to file his or her own individual lawsuit.

Corporations and other common opponents of personal injury plaintiffs have unfortunately spread the myth that lawsuits are out of control. To the contrary, lawsuits are how we correct and deter abuses not covered by the criminal justice system, and ensure the compensation of victims of wrongdoing. Special legal privileges for wrongdoers harm victims and society in general by allowing wrongdoing to go unchecked by the legal system.

We urge you to contact your congressional representatives to make it known that you oppose these kinds of so-called “tort reform” measures. Courts and juries should be allowed to do their work without interference from Congress.