This ran in The Oklahoman April 4. To see it there, go to http://www.newsok.com/corporat…
Imagine being told your life is worth less than someone else’s. If this sounds incredibly unfair and discriminatory, it is. Welcome to “reform” of our state’s legal system, courtesy of billion-dollar insurance companies and huge corporations whose only concern is to carve out a special status so they can protect their profits.
Proposals to cap noneconomic damages in lawsuits are making their way through the Legislature. Caps blatantly discriminate against the elderly, the poor, minorities, children and stay-at-home mothers. Caps deny justice to the most severely injured – those who most need it and most deserve it.
To understand why, one must understand how lawsuits work.
When someone is injured, he or she may be awarded noneconomic damages. These are given for loss and suffering apart from lost income and medical bills. Examples include paralysis, blindness and limb loss.
Supporters of caps say pain and suffering is “fuzzy” and is unrelated to actual expenses. What’s fuzzy is trying to place an arbitrary price on a person’s unique circumstances and pretending those who suffer from life-changing injuries don’t deserve something because their futures have been wrecked.
By capping noneconomic damages, Republican legislative leaders are saying your life is only worth the medical care you need because of someone else’s negligence, the income you lost because someone else caused you to be unable to work, and no more than $300,000 for a lifetime of suffering and lost opportunities.
For those who haven’t joined the work force and established a record of earnings, or have left the work force because of retirement or to raise a family, $300,000 will be all they can expect for the continuing anguish from their injuries.
By limiting noneconomic damages, GOP legislative leaders are saying the lives of the poor, the elderly and children are worth less than that of a corporate CEO who can document a large income.
Instead of telling average Oklahomans that they’re less important than fat cats, true lawsuit reform would involve greater regulation of the insurance industry and stronger oversight of the medical profession. True reform would speed up the legal system and reduce its costs. It would protect everyone, not just the wealthy and powerful.
Oklahomans deserve better than corporate immunity, especially those who haven’t even entered the work force or have spent their lives toiling and expect a peaceful retirement.
Raymond is executive director of OKWatchdog.