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November 13, 2009

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION CALLS ON U.S. SENATE
 TO REJECT CAPS ON MALPRACTICE VICTIMS' PAIN AND SUFFERING COMPENSATION
AS PART OF NATIONAL HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION

President Getnick Urges Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to Reject Proposals that Discriminate Against Medical Malpractice Victims and that Jeopardize Public Safety

New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City), in a letter today, called on the U.S. Senate to reject any proposals that would discriminate against medical malpractice victims while also jeopardizing public safety by capping the amount of compensation that victims could receive for pain and suffering. Such proposals have been raised in the debate over national health care reform legislation.

In his letter to U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand, President Getnick restated the State Bar's long-held position that the authority to change medical liability laws should rest with the states and not the federal government. 
 
"As Senate activity on this topic continues, I want to reiterate our long standing objections to those tort and medical malpractice reform proposals that have resurfaced as part of the current debate," wrote Getnick. "We object to legislation to cap pain and suffering compensation for victims of medical malpractice.  Such caps would unjustly discriminate against classes of accident victims who suffer devastating physical and psychological losses. 

"For over 200 years the authority to promulgate medical liability laws has rested with the states, which are the repository of experience and expertise in these matters," Getnick noted in the letter. "I am pleased that the House, in passing Bill 3962, The Affordable Health Care for America Act, refrained from including provisions advocated by some members that would have resulted in federal tort laws encroaching upon the authority of the states."

Getnick noted that legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives would provide for incentive payments to states that adopt alternative medical liability laws without imposing caps on damages and other unacceptable measures.  According to Getnick, providing such incentive payments to states is an appropriate alternative to proposals that would impair the ability of victims to seek remedy in the justice system.

"In assessing the current tort system, it is at least as important to consider the victims of malpractice in comparison to those who cause them personal injury," he said. "We have seen in the past that the attack of tort reformers is a movement that favors cost savings over quality and that emphasizes the corporate bottom line over safety of the public.

"As the health care debate progresses with you and your colleagues in the Senate we strongly urge Congress to focus on health care problems and to ensure that the individual victims of medical malpractice are not placed in a secondary position as compared to those who have created the very victims from which they seek protection in the name of tort reform," Getnick concluded.

To view a full copy of President Getnick's letter to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, please visit http://www.nysba.org/LtrMedMalUSSen.

Founded in 1876, the 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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