Today’s Health Care Check-Up: — January 20, 2000

No New Lawsuits? Are You Kidding?

Supporters of the "Patients’ Bill of Rights" claim expanding the "right" to sue won’t result in an explosion of new lawsuits. But don’t tell that to the trial lawyers who are already firing the first salvos in what will be a massive assault on America’s health care system.

  • In recent months, trial lawyers have filed at least 16 class-action lawsuits against HMOs using a law originally intended for organized crime, the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization law (RICO):

"Under RICO defendants are forced to pay treble damages, a tantalizing prospect for the trial lawyers. With class action suits filed on behalf of millions of an HMO’s enrollees, the trial lawyers are hoping the numbers are staggering enough to strongarm the HMOs into settlements. Richard Scruggs hinted the other day that he hopes these cases will never see the inside of a courtroom."

— Collin Levey, editorial page writer, The Wall Street Journal, 1/3/00

  • Trial lawyers are even organizing seminars to teach their colleagues ways to sue HMOs under state laws:

"The [California] law, known as 17200, has become such a hit in the plaintiffs bar that a recent trial lawyers convention offered a seminar on ‘How Business and Professions Code 17200 Can Be a Value Added Component of Your Litigation and How Those Claims Can be Settled.’ "

— Collin Levey, editorial page writer, The Wall Street Journal, 1/3/00

  • These attacks against the health care industry have led some congressional supporters of the "right" to sue to now express concern:

"To see what is a very aggressive and coordinated attack by trial lawyers on the [managed care] industry as a whole, you can’t be under any illusions that this is not going to cost the health-care system money."

— Rep. Cal Dooley (D-CA), who voted for the Dingell-Norwood bill,, 11/30/99

Trial lawyers are already putting America’s health care system on trial.

What will they do if given an expanded "right" to sue?