Group Letter to House Judiciary Committee Opposing Civil Justice Bills

from Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2017

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Groups Strongly Oppose Attacks on Civil Justice

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

On February 2, the House Committee on the Judiciary is scheduled to mark up several bills that collectively would make it more difficult for Americans to enforce their legal rights, and would place unreasonable burdens on the federal judiciary and federal enforcement officials.  The undersigned organizations strongly oppose these bills as harmful and unnecessary.

H.R. 720: The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA).

LARA would make major, substantive changes to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, bypassing both the Judicial Conference of the United States and the U.S. Supreme Court in the process. Rule 11 provides judges with authority to sanction attorneys for filing frivolous claims and defenses. It provides judges with discretion to decide, on a case-by-case basis, if sanctions are appropriate. LARA would remove this judicial discretion, mandating sanctions.  LARA would reinstate a rule put into effect in 1983 that was so unworkable it was rescinded in 1993 after many problems and nearly universal criticism.  Among those problems were: the rule had a chilling effect on the filing of meritorious civil rights, employment, environmental, and consumer cases; the rule was overused in civil rights cases as sanctions were sought and imposed against civil rights plaintiffs more than against any other litigants in civil court; and the rule burdened the already strained federal court system with satellite litigation over compliance with the rule.  These burdens adversely affected cases of all types, including business-to-business civil litigation. Congress should be looking for ways to decrease, not increase, wasteful burdens on the courts, and should avoid rules changes that have a discriminatory impact on civil rights, employment, environmental, and consumer cases.

H.R. 725: The Innocent Party Protection Act.

This bill would upend long established law in the area of federal court jurisdiction, specifically addressing the supposed overuse of“fraudulent joinder” to defeat complete diversity jurisdiction in a case.  It was previously known as the “Fraudulent Joinder Prevention Act.”  However, this bill is not about fraud.  It is a corporate forum-shopping bill that would allow corporations to move cases properly brought in state courts into federal courts.  Corporate defendants support this bill because they prefer to litigate in federal court, which usually results in less diverse jurors, more expensive proceedings, longer wait times for trials, and stricter limits on discovery.  For plaintiffs, who are supposed to be able to choose their forums, this legislation would result in additional time, expense, and inconvenience for the plaintiff and witnesses.  Moreover, there is no evidence that federal courts are not already properly handling allegations of so-called “fraudulent joinder” after removal under current laws.  The bill would result in needless micromanagement of federal courts and a waste of judicial resources.  While it purports to fix a non-existent problem, it creates problems itself.

H.R. 732: Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act.

Under existing laws, settlement terms that result from federal enforcement actions can sometimes include payments to third parties to advance programs that assist with recovery, benefits, and relief for communities harmed by lawbreakers, to the extent such payments further the objectives of the enforcement action.  This bill would cut off any payments to third parties other than individualized restitution and other forms of direct payment for “actual harm.” That restriction would handcuff federal enforcement officials by limiting their ability to negotiate appropriate relief for real harms caused to the public by illegal conduct that is the subject of federal enforcement actions.  This bill would be a gift to lawbreakers at the expense of families and communities suffering from injuries that cannot be addressed by direct restitution.

We urge you to oppose each of these bills.  For more information, please contact Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy, [email protected] or Susan Harley at Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, [email protected].

Very sincerely,
Alliance for Justice

American Association for Justice

Americans for Financial Reform

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Brazilian Worker Center

California Kids IAQ

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Justice & Democracy

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Central Florida Jobs with Justice

Coal River Mountain Watch

Comite Civico Del Valle

Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Consumers Union

Daily Kos

DMV EJ Coalition

Earthjustice

East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

Environmental Working Group

Farmworker Association of Florida

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings

IDARE LLC

Impact Fund

Louisiana Bucket Brigade

M&M Occupational Health and Safety Services

Martinez Environmental Group

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Center for Law and Economic Justice

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)

National Consumers League

National Employment Lawyers Association

Natural Resources Defense Council

New Haven Legal Assistance Association

Ohio Citizen Action

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Oregon Environmental Council

Progressive Congress Action Fund

Protect All Children’s Environment

Public Citizen

Public Justice Center

Public Law Center

RootsAction.org

Sierra Club

Southern Appalachia Mountain Stewards

Texas Watch

The Workers’ Rights Center

U.S. PIRG

Western New Council on Occupational Safety and Health

WisCOSH, Inc.

Workplace Fairness

Worksafe

Group Letters Opposing the FACT Act, H.R. 906, Privacy Group Letter

from Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy

February 14, 2017

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Re:  Opposition to H.R. 906, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

We, the undersigned organizations, are committed to protecting the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans and hope that you will block legislation that would subject consumers to likely fraud and abuse stemming from release of their personal information. Therefore, we ask that you please oppose the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT Act), H.R. 906.

The FACT Act would create conditions that are ripe for scam artists and identity thieves to prey on all victims of asbestos exposure who have filed claims with trusts established to ensure compensation for harm caused by asbestos corporations. In this age of data breaches and instance after instance of hackers stealing personal information from secure sites, Congress should be doing more instead of less to protect people’s personal information. Alarmingly, the FACT Act helps identity thieves by placing highly sensitive information in public databases.

The bill requires asbestos claims trusts to create a “report that shall be made available on the court’s public docket” that includes personal information on victims such as how and when they were exposed to the deadly product, how much money they received for their claim and other private information.  This is an unprecedented invasion of privacy that goes far beyond the   usual information disclosure that occurs in our legal system.

Under the FACT Act, asbestos trust claimants would be exposed to possible identity theft and economic crimes since portions of victims’ social security number would be released along with other unique identifying information such as their children’s names. The publicly disclosed information required by the bill could be used, disclosed and processed with few restrictions by any person, anywhere in the world. No U.S. privacy law would apply to the information once it   is disclosed. Those concerned that illegal immigrants or criminals could gain access to enough information to allow them to falsely file citizenship documents and claim government benefits, or other illicit activities, should be especially wary of the potential consequences of the data disclosures required by the FACTAct.

Not only will victims’ claim amounts and other information be made publicly available to scam artists and anyone who trolls such sites looking for lucrative targets to take advantage of, asbestos victims’ information will also be available to data brokers. These brokers collect, package and sell personal information to marketers for all sorts of products and services, including high-priced pharmaceutical products and predatory loans.

In addition, though the bill says that “confidential medical records” of the victims won’t be released on these public web sites, the term is not defined in the bill. If the sponsors of the bill wanted to protect the medical privacy of patients, they would have exempted all medical information from disclosure. By protecting only “confidential medical records” and then failing to define that term, the bill does nothing to ensure that sensitive health information of victims and their families will not be disclosed to the public. The type of personal information involved in asbestos claims could unfortunately be used by employers, insurance companies, and others to potentially discriminate against asbestos victims suffering from terrible, agonizing diseases like mesothelioma andasbestosis.

The FACT Act adds insult to injury by inexcusably invading the privacy of asbestos victims. Please oppose this harmful legislation.

Sincerely,

Essential Information

Government Accountability Project

Patient Privacy Rights

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Privacy Times

TURN-The Utility Reform Network

Group Letters Opposing the FACT Act, H.R. 906, Occupational Safety and Health Letter

from Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy
February 14, 2017

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Opposition to H.R. 906, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

We, the undersigned organizations concerned with occupational health and safety and dedicated to serving our nation’s trade unionists, strongly oppose H.R. 906, the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act,” introduced by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas-27). This bill will drain critical resources that have been set aside to secure justice for victims of asbestos diseases while simultaneously publishing those victims’ personal information on the internet.

Asbestos is a lethal substance found in nearly all homes, schools and other buildings built before the early 1980s. It was, and remains, a component in automobile parts, most notably brake pads, presenting a deadly hazard to those who make and repair cars. In addition, for decades, asbestos was a component in the production of ships and it remains in many shipyards and aboard countless vessels. Asbestos fibers are released into the air often occurs when structures are renovated, demolished, or damaged by fire. As such, they can easily be inhaled and become lodged in the lungs. A single exposure can cause asbestos- related disease, including deadly and painful asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a sure-fire death sentence. Workers without the proper protections take the deadly fibers home to loved ones, spreading disease and death into the community.

Millions of American workers from various professions have been regularly exposed to asbestos throughout their careers, causing many to develop a variety of cancers and other life-shortening diseases. Their families can face a similar fate. For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) “Work- Related Lung Disease Surveillance Report” for 2007 noted that the construction industry accounted for nearly one-quarter of deaths due to asbestosis and 15 percent of deaths from malignant mesothelioma. The building trades of plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters were the most commonly-listed jobs for deaths attributed to asbestosis and among the top of the list formesothelioma.

Asbestos victims — wherever they encountered the deadly dust — are entitled to compensation from the companies that caused their illnesses and/or premature deaths. However, this bill gives companies an unfair advantage over asbestos victims seeking justice.

Speciously touted as a “transparency bill,” the measure is designed to help the asbestos industry avoid paying victims through delay tactics and a waste of scarce trust resources set aside for victims. Adding insult to injury, the FACT Act also allows unwanted invasions of privacy and possibly identity theft by publishing the victims’ claim information and other personal facts — including part of their Social Security numbers — on the Internet. Our nation’s workers dying of asbestos disease related to their jobs — and their families — deserve more respect and better treatment fromCongress.

Therefore, the undersigned organizations strongly oppose this legislation. We further call on members of Congress to stand with our nation’s workforce and other victims of asbestos diseases and oppose the FACT Act (H.R. 906).

Sincerely,

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Communications Workers of America

ConnectiCOSH

Knox Area Workers’ Memorial Day Committee

Labor & Employment Committee of the National Lawyers Guild

Maine Labor Group on Health

National Council for Occupational Safety and Health

New England Regional Council of Carpenters

New Jersey State Industrial Union Council

New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy

NHCOSH

Occupational Health Clinical Centers, Syracuse, New York

Occupational Safety & Health Law Project RICOSH

SafeWork Washington

United Steelworkers

Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health

Worksafe

Celeste Monforton, Member, American Public Health Association

Group Letters Opposing the FACT Act, H.R. 906, Consumer Group Letter

from Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy

February 14, 2017

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Opposition to H.R. 906, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

The undersigned groups strongly oppose H.R. 906, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017 (FACT Act). This bill will interfere with state legal systems without justification, severely invade the privacy of asbestos victims and their families, and delay and deny justice to people suffering from lethal asbestos-related diseases. While it may seem like an opportune time to legislate in the area of asbestos litigation, this bill is extremely misguided. It will do little more than harm dying victims (including many former Navy shipyard workers), while advantaging the big corporations responsible for compensating them.

For decades, secrecy and deceit have been a way of business for the asbestos industry, and this bill does absolutely nothing to change that. This wholly unnecessary and one-sided legislation is an affront to states’ rights and unfair to victims.

H.R. 906 has two primary provisions:

First, it requires asbestos trusts to disclose on public websites the private, confidential information about every asbestos claimant and their families, including past, current and future claimants. The legislation does nothing to stop asbestos defendants from continuing to demand secrecy when they settle cases (as they routinely do), or force companies to disclose any information to help a claimant with his or her case. To this day, these companies refuse to make public information about where asbestos is present, where it was used, and where it is imported. This bill is an unfair and unwarranted imposition on people who are likely to die because theasbestos industry covered up the dangers of asbestos for over 50 years and still insists on confidentiality today. Moreover, the information that will go on theses public sites includes victims’ names, addresses, medical information, how much they received in compensation, and the last four digits of their social security numbers. This extreme invasion of privacy will make victims and their families vulnerable to predators, con artists, and unscrupulous businesses who will scour these sites forinformation.

Second, it gives any defendant in any asbestos lawsuit the right to demand any information about any asbestos victim from any asbestos trust at any time for any reason. The trusts themselves told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law in 2013 that such a provision would place substantial burdens on them, requiring them to spend tens of thousands of additional hours per year trying to comply with this requirement.[1] And because the provision is unlimited, the costs of compliance for trusts would be very high as well. Trusts are already underfunded. A RAND study found that the median payment from asbestos trusts to victims is 25 percent of the value of the claim, and some payments are aslow as 1.1 percent of the claim’s value.

In addition to cost burdens, severe delays will result. As explained by Caplin & Drysdale attorney Elihu Inselbuch in his “Responses to Questions for the Record” following his 2013 subcommittee testimony, because trusts will be buried in otherwise unnecessary paperwork seeking claimant information, “The bill would slow down or stop the process by which the trusts review and pay claims, such that many victims would die before receiving compensation, since victims of mesothelioma typically only live for 4 to 18 months after their diagnosis.” In many cases, “the delays in trust payment will force dying plaintiffs, who are in desperate need of funds, to settle for lower amounts with solvent defendants.… Delay is a weapon for asbestos defendants.”

Finally, Mr. Inselbuch explained that, because this bill does not require that the information demanded by defendants be relevant to, or admissible in, any lawsuit, it is an unwarranted and “heavy-handed piece of federal interference with the states’ legal systems.”

Far from being even-handed, this bill allows defendants — and only defendants — to do an end- run around state rules of discovery that place limits on information-gathering. The bill would tip the scales of justice in favor of asbestos defendants by giving defendants access to information about victims’ settlements with asbestos trusts while allowing defendants to continue hiding information about their settlements with other victims. To level the playing field, victims should be entitled to information from defendants regarding previous settlement amounts and true transparency about where the defendants’ asbestos was used, manufactured, and stored.

As to the claim that this bill will “prevent fraud,” this bill places new, burdensome requirements on regularly-audited trusts. No one can find evidence of significant fraud in the trust process. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied the problem and did not identifyone fraudulent claim.As Mr. Inselbuch noted, “[b]ecause the injured victim was typically exposed to multiple asbestos products at multiple job sites over a period of many years, he or she must file different claims, with different trusts, with different forms that request different information. The fact that the exposure information submitted to one trust differs from theexposure information submitted to another does not mean it is ‘inconsistent’ — and certainly not specious or fraudulent.” Similarly, with regard to charges that victims “double-dip,” he explains, “when an asbestos victim recovers from each defendant whose product contributed to their disease, that victim is in no way ‘double-dipping’; rather they are recovering a portion of their damages from each of the corporations who harmed them. In fact, each trust is responsible for and pays for only its own share of the damages.” And as noted above, each trust usually can pay only pennies on the dollar.

Since at least the 1930s, asbestos companies and their insurers have been denying responsibility for the millions of deaths and illnesses caused by this deadly product. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that roughly 3,000 people continue to die from mesothelioma and asbestosis every year. Other experts estimate the death toll is as high as 15,000 people per year when other types of asbestos-linked diseases and cancers are included.[2]  The companies hid the dangers posed by asbestos exposure, lied about what they knew, fought against liability for the harms caused, tried to change the laws that held them responsible and, to this day, fight against banning asbestos in the U.S. The asbestos industry is not interested in transparency. This legislation is nothing but another industry attempt to avoid responsibility for the grave harms they have caused. We are asking you to stand with veterans and other cancer victims of the asbestos industry’s wrongdoing and oppose H.R. 906.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

Alliance for Justice

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Center for Justice & Democracy

Connecticut Center for Patient Safety

Constitutional Alliance

Consumer Action

Consumer Watchdog

Earthjustice

EWG Action Fund

National Employment Lawyers Association

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Consumers League

OpenTheGovernment.org

Protect All Children’s Environment

Public Citizen

US PIRG



[1] See Letter from Douglas A. Campbell, Campbell & Levine, LLC, to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chairman, H. Subcomm. on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, et al. (Mar. 20, 2013).

[2]Sonya Lunder, Asbestos Kills 12,000-15,000 People Per Year in the U.S., ASBESTOS NATION, EWG ACTION FUND.

Group Letter to House Judiciary Committee Opposing Class Action Bill, H.R. 985

from Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy

February 14, 2017

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Groups Strongly Oppose H.R. 985 – the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017

On February 15, 2017, the Committee will consider the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017.  The undersigned organizations strongly oppose this bill. If this bill were enacted into law, it would obliterate class actions in America.  It was introduced less than a week ago.  The fact that the Committee would even consider such sweeping, reckless legislation without holding a single hearing is an outrage.

Like last year’s legislation (H.R. 1927), the bill begins with the requirement that every person in a class have “an injury of the same type and scope” before the case can proceed. This alone would sound the death knell for most class actions.  Classes inherently include a range of affected individuals, and virtually never does every member of the class suffer the same “scope” of injury from the same wrongdoing. Certainly, many civil rights, discrimination and employment class actions, including cases involving refusals by companies to properly pay workers, would not satisfy these criteria.

But H.R. 985 adds another 10 pages of new, complicated provisions, each of which is designed to ensure that no class action could ever be brought or litigated. In some cases, it would do so by overturning centuries of American law.  Some provisions would make it even more impossible to bring race and gender discrimination class actions.  Other provisions would have a dramatic impact on cases against toxic polluters. The bill even goes so far as preventing someone from choosing their own counsel.  And that’s just the beginning of what’s wrong with this appalling piece of legislation.

In addition, by considering this bill now, Congress is circumventing the process that Congress itself established for promulgation of federal court rules under the Rules Enabling Act, bypassing both the Judicial Conference of the United States and the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, the Judicial Conference already has an Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, which is currently meeting to discuss possible changes to Rule 23. Interference with the proper federal court rules process is reckless and irresponsible, particularly when this proposal is so damaging to victims.

Class action lawsuits are among the most important tools to enable harmed, cheated and violated individuals and small businesses to hold large corporations and institutions accountable and deter future misconduct.  H.R. 985 would annihilate that tool. We urge you to oppose this bill.

Sincerely,

9to5, National Association of Working Women

AFL-CIO

Alliance for Justice

American Antitrust Institute

American Association for Justice

American Family Voices

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees

Bet Tzedek Legal Services

Brazilian Policy Center

California Employment Lawyers Association

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Justice & Democracy

Central Florida Jobs with Justice

Comite Civico Del Valle

Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws

Connecticut Trial Lawyers Employment Law Committee

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Consumers Union

D.C. Consumer Rights Coalition

Daily Kos

Demand Progress

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

District Council 37 (NY) Municipal Employees Legal Services

Earthjustice

East Bay Community Law Center

East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

Environmental Working Group

Farmworker Association of Florida

Food & Water Watch

Fuse Washington

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings

Interfaith Alliance of Colorado

JASA Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

Liveable Arlington

Louisiana Bucket Brigade

Main Street Alliance

Maryland Consumer Rights Council

MFY Legal Services, Inc.

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Center for Law and Economic Justice

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)

National Consumers League

National Disability Rights Network

National Employment Law Project

National Employment Lawyers Association

New Haven Legal Assistance Association

Oregon Environmental Council

OVEC – Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Progressive Congress Action Fund

Public Citizen

Public Justice

Public Justice Center

Public Law Center

RootsAction.org

SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center

Sciencecorps

SEIU 775

SEIU 925

SEIU 1199 NW

Southern Poverty Law Center

Texas Watch

The Impact Fund

U.S. PIRG

Washington Community Action Network

Washington Federation of State Employees

Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Western New York Council on Occupational Safety & Health

Woodstock Institute

Workers’ Rights Center

Workplace Fairness

Group Letter to House Judiciary Comm. Opposing Med Mal Nursing Home Drug Bill

from Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy
February 27, 2017

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Groups Strongly Oppose H.R. 1215: The “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017”

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

The undersigned consumer, health, legal and public interest groups strongly oppose H.R. 1215: The “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.” This bill would limit the legal rights of injured patients and families of those killed by negligent health care. The bill’s sweeping scope covers not only cases involving medical malpractice, but also cases involving unsafe drugs and nursing home abuse and neglect.

Even if H.R. 1215 applied only to doctors and hospitals, recent studies clearly establish that its provisions would lead to more deaths and injuries, and increased health care costs due to a “broad relaxation of care.”[1] Add to this nursing home and pharmaceutical industry liability limitations, significantly weakening incentives for these industries to act safely, and untold numbers of additional death, injuries and costs are inevitable, and unacceptable.

The latest statistics show that medical errors, most of which are preventable, are the third leading cause of death in America. This intolerable situation is perhaps all the more shocking because we already know about how to fix much of this problem. Congress should focus on improving patient safety and reducing deaths and injuries, not insulating negligent providers from accountability, harming patients and saddling taxpayers with the cost, as H.R. 1215 would do.

For example, this bill would establish a permanent across-the-board $250,000 “cap” on compensation for “non-economic damages” in medical malpractice cases. Such caps are unfair and discriminatory. For example, University of Buffalo Law Professor Lucinda Finley has written, “certain injuries that happen primarily to women are compensated predominantly or almost exclusively through noneconomic loss damages. These injuries include sexual or reproductive harm, pregnancy loss, and sexual assault injuries.” Also, “[J]uries consistently award women more in noneconomic loss damages than men … [A]ny cap on noneconomic loss damages will deprive women of a much greater proportion and amount of a jury award than men. Noneconomic loss damage caps therefore amount to a form of discrimination against women and contribute to unequal access to justice or fair compensation for women.”[2]

Other provisions in H.R. 1215 are just as problematic. The proposed federal statute of limitations, more restrictive than a majority of state laws, lacks complete logic from a deficit reduction angle since its only impact would be to cut off meritorious claims, forcing patients to turn to the government for care. The bill would repeal joint and several liability even though the Congressional Budget Office says this could increase, not lower, costs.

H.R. 1215 would overturn traditional state common law and would be an unprecedented interference with the work of state court judges and juries in civil cases. Its one-way preemption of state law provisions that protect patients (there are some exceptions) makes clear that the intent of this legislation is not to make laws uniform in the 50 states. Rather, it is a carefully crafted bill to provide relief and protections for the insurance, medical and drug industries, at the expense of patient safety. We urge you to oppose H.R. 1215: The “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.” Thank you.

Very sincerely,

Alliance for Justice

American Association for Justice

Annie Appleseed Project

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Center for Justice & Democracy

Citizen Action/Illinois

Connecticut Center for Patient Safety

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Watchdog

Daily Kos

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings

Leahslegacy.org

Mothers Against Medical Error

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Center for Health Research (NCHR)

National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

National Consumers League

National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association

National Women’s Health Network

NYPIRG

Patient Safety America

Public Citizen

Public Justice

Public Justice Center

Public Law Center

PULSE of Colorado

Quinolone Vigilance Foundation

The Empowered Patient Coalition

Washington Civil & Disability Advocate



[1] See, Bernard S. Black, David A. Hyman and Myungho Paik, “Damage Caps and Defensive Medicine, Revisited,” J. Health Econ. (January 2017); Bernard S. Black and Zenon Zabinski, “The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law: Evidence from Medical Malpractice Reform,” Northwestern University Law & Economics Research Paper No. 13-09 (July 2014).

[2] Lucinda M. Finley, “The Hidden Victims Of Tort Reform: Women, Children, And The Elderly,” Emory Law Journal, 53 Emory L.J. 1263, Summer, 2004.