Thu May 9, 2013
Assembly GOP Changes Asbestos, Malpractice Standards
Assembly Republicans passed two bills Wednesday that they say will reform the legal system, but critics say they'll burden people injured by asbestos or a doctor's malpractice.
The asbestos bill would require someone harmed by asbestos to disclose up front how many companies they plan to sue and require them to go after money from asbestos trusts before they can sue for a bigger award in court. Business groups and Republicans support it, saying it prevents so-called “double-dipping” and ensures more transparency in lawsuits. Trial lawyers and Democrats oppose it; they say it might delay asbestos cases so long that the person bringing them is too sick to testify or dies. Milwaukee Democrat Evan Goyke told Republicans that's who would be hurt by this bill.
“You don't like lawyers: your targets are set on them. But when you impact the lawyer, you also impact the person who's innocent who's sitting next to them in court.”
The VFW and the Military Order of the Purple Heart are fighting the plan, arguing it would disproportionately harm veterans exposed to asbestos.
The other bill would change the standards to which doctors must adhere when diagnosing patients. Right now they're required to give advice based on what a reasonable patient would expect. This bill would require them to inform their patients based on a “reasonable physician standard.” Trial lawyers say that lowers expectations and could shield bad doctors from lawsuits. Mequon Republican sponsor Jim Ott said anyone guilty of malpractice could still be sued. He noted the bill's wide support by doctors and hospital groups.
“Do you really think they're registering in favor of this bill so that they hope they can lower their standard of care?”
The asbestos bill passed along party lines while the doctor bill also picked up a few Democratic votes. Both head next to the Senate.