The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Premonition coming...

I'm not usually prone to psychic ability, but I have a feeling I'll be hearing something about Vioxx during the next week - call it a hunch...

There are alot of interesting things about this case that I can see from the get-go. The first is that the huge award of approx. $250M should come under the new cap on punitive damages here in Texas, which the TV news claimed last night could lower it to around $26M. The second is this BBC News article that says a similar suit would be difficult or impossible to bring in the UK. The solicitor interviewed here cites two reasons: the UK has 'loser pays' provisions that dramatically increase the risk of bringing personal injury lawsuits, and the attitude of officials in charge of public funding who he says aren't "...happy supporting these kinds of cases."

The first point raises a good question I first saw on the JuryGeek's website: why didn't we see any real push here for loser-pays during the tort reform process? Capping punitive damages helps firms manage risk more effectively, but it doesn't cut to the heart of reform the way making the losing side pay the winner's attorney fees does.

The second raises in interesting dilemma for those who support European-style health care. When health care providers become government functionaries, you wind up going against the government for any failures. It's no real surprise that officials in the UK don't want to hear anything about this case.


Blogger Agnes Mitchell said...

Wouldn't it be an interesting twist if a portion of the damages from medical companies were required to go to medical research? Suppose the verdict read more like "$1.25 mil to the spouse and equal sum to children's cancer research."
Yes, I see the conflicts of interest and I get that such a thing would actually give incentive for more punative lawsuits.....but wouldn't it be great if we could find a way to start DUMPING money into better and more realistic cures? Especially since drug companies are wasting insane amounts of cash advertising our brains out these days.

9:12 AM  
Blogger rattlerd said...

I know what you mean, Ag - and the advertising seems even more over-the-top when it's for prescription drugs. Basically they're saying, hey, nag the hell out of your doctor because we're showing you some pretty pictures of attractive people on the beach, riding bicycles, doing Pilates, etc.

That's the real problem with punitive damages that I see - they're meant to punish the offender, but they don't really have any positive impact except for the recipient (and his PI lawyer) for whom it is all just gravy, because all actual damages are awarded separately. I think that's the reason they were an easy sell in tort reform - to alot of people, taking money away from a bad guy seems reasonable, but turning around and handing it to someone who has already been made whole seems like unjust enrichment.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Agnes Mitchell said...

Amen. And do you find it interesting that we are having a monetary discussion about drugs?
Why are we not having a health discussion instead?

Priorities? What ARE our priorities?

12:02 PM  

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