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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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What is Good for Greg Abbott is Not Good for Other Texans


Republican Greg Abbott was recently elected governor of Texas, replacing long-standing, anti-citizen, Governor Rick Perry. This means only one thing for the citizens of Texans – a pro-safety, pro-citizen model is anything but imminent. One would think that someone personally suffering a life-long disability at the hands of another’s negligence would be the first to put safety of the people over profits. Yet, despite being compensated himself, he does anything but put the citizens of Texas first.

In 1984, Abbott was jogging when a 75-foot post oak tree snapped at its base and fell, striking him in the back. The tree crushed Abbott’s spine, leaving him immediately paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair for life. Injuries kept him hospitalized and in rehabilitation for more than three months. His paralysis required him to relearn life’s basic tasks, such as opening doors, getting dressed, and brushing his teeth. Abbott sued the property owner, and won. While Abbott refuses to discuss the settlement terms, the tax-free insurance payout is believed to be worth $10 million or more.

Despite benefiting from the pre-tort reform era, Abbott is a strong supporter of tort reform which would deny others with similar injuries the same justice he received. Abbott would probably agree that no money could ever compensate him for his injuries. He would most likely give back all the money if he could walk again. Yet, he supports more measures by big businesses and insurance companies to deny others the rights he was afforded. So after the “innocent victim” Abbott received his $10 million settlement, the “politician” Abbott oppose awards to other victims.

Abbott, like Rick Perry, has proffered measure after measure to assist bad doctors and limit damage recoveries, in court, awarded to seriously injured and disabled Texas citizens. Back in April, Mr. Abbott sided with Baylor Health Care System in federal lawsuits filed by three former patients of Dallas spine surgeon Christopher Duntsch. The plaintiffs argued that Duntsch was a known drug addict who performed spinal surgery while high on cocaine, and Baylor should never been allowed to operate.

The lawsuits challenge a 2003 Texas law that grants hospitals near-total legal immunity for the mistakes of doctors they allow to operate. Under the current law, for Baylor to be liable for Duntsch’s mistakes, the plaintiffs must prove that hospital administrators acted with actual intent to harm patients. What this means is in order to win a malpractice lawsuit in Texas, injured patients must prove that the doctor entered the operating room with the pure intent to harm the patient. This is about the equivalent of needing the doctor to get on a witness stand and say “on the day in question, I decided I wanted to permanently disable or kills someone”, in order for the plaintiff to prevail.

Despite the fact that the state of Texas is not named in the suit, Greg Abbott has asked to intervene and defend the hospital anyway. Why? Let’s look at Abbott’s timing. In June 2013 and January 2014 Abbott received two large donations to his gubernatorial campaign—$100,000 and $250,000 respectively—both from Drayton McLane, a Temple transportation exec and Republican who is also the chairman of the board of trustees for Baylor Scott & White, the company that owns the Baylor hospital system.

Overall, Abbott raised over $45 million during the election cycle. All of that money comes from political special interests who obviously felt it was a good investment. If Greg Abbott has his way, Baylor won’t pay a cent, even though the hospital made a $65k profit per surgery. If wealthy corporations can’t legislate citizen injustice through dishonest rhetorical campaigns (“lawsuit abuse”, “legal reform”, “jackpot justice”, “frivolous lawsuits”, “damages caps”), why not simply “buy” the justice you want? These immunities or damage caps are nothing more than corporate bailouts of health care professionals and their insurance carriers at the expense of those who received substandard care and suffered live changing damages. It was okay when Mr. Abbott was permanently disabled, filed a lawsuit, and won $10 million. Now when pure negligence has happened at the hands of a “coked-up” doctor, he fights for hospital immunity. Even if Baylor is held accountable, the most the innocent victims can collect resulting from Duntsch’s blatant malpractice is $250,000. Like Rick Perry before him, Greg Abbott is, simply, another tort reform hypocrite.

Tort reform leaves seriously injured or disabled people left to fend for themselves because billion dollar corporations buy off state or federal politicians and shift their damages burden to victims and taxpayers. Components of recovery are usually medical expenses and other out of pocket expenses, lost wages, and the intangible, “pain and suffering”. It is pain and suffering awards that damage caps are designed to limit. Pain and suffering and/or punitive damage awards are discretionary questions for juries to decide. In serious injury and death cases, awards can and should be millions of dollars. In Texas, the pain and suffering recovery is limited to $250,000, a cap that was established after Abbott was awarded $10 million.

The way our justice system was designed by our founders (read the 7th Amendment to the constitution) to work, was very clear – citizens have the right to a trial by a jury of their peers; a victim submits his/her case and damages to a jury and a jury decides how much the loss is worth. Unless, and until, this system is restored in Texas and everywhere else that anti-citizen legislation has prevailed, the Texas judicial system (and other state systems like it), will continue to sell justice to the highest bidder. Is that the system you want? Should justice be for sale? How long will it take Americans to see the reality of tort reform?

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.


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  1. Keely Clark says:
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    What are you doing to turn back tort reform? I see the banter, but don’t see any actions being taken to right the wrong? What are your next steps to get this fixed? Please tell me you aren’t another arm chair know it all, who wants to complain from the side-lines. Surely, your special interest group can pull some resources together. Get it on the ballot box…..

  2. charles manning says:
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    The inability of deserving victims to recover appropriate amounts is only one aspect of the problem. Perhaps more importantly, when doctors or other professionals are protected by “tort reform,” they’re less likely to exercise reasonable care while performing their professional duties.

  3. Carol L. Kent says:
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    Sadly, we just fought this fight in California in our last election – and once again the insurance companies poured millions into defeating measures that would have brought our cap limits into line with inflation currently 250K.

    There is a saying that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. Unfortunately it played well in California, and it obviously played well in Texas given the governor they just elected.

  4. Mark Bello says:
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    Keeley, “Balls”, Charles, “Pretty”, and Carol: Thanks for your comments. I will try to respond.

    Keeley. I belong to multiple justice associations and I have contributed thousands of dollars to prevent anti-justice legislation and defeat anti-justice candidates. I also agree with Carol that “if you repeat a lie often enough…”. That’s why I write about these injustices so often. Can’t let the lie that is “tort reform” just sit out there without comment. Thus, I try to write about these injustices as often as I can. In the end, an informed public is the best way to defeat these kinds of lies. Don’t you think?

    “Balls”: Your comment is a perfect example of what I call “the big lie”. No one gets a million dollars for a “minor discomfort/rash”. Seven figure verdicts happen because people suffer horrific, catastrophic injuries caused by seriously negligent people or corporations. Why do you suppose that corporate and medical profession lobbyist seek to cap damages to prevent “frivolous lawsuits”? Why would you need a cap on that which is worthless? They don’t care about “frivolous lawsuits”; if they are filed, the defense wins them and gets costs. They seek to prevent large recoveries in SERIOUS lawsuits and use “frivolous” as the means to get people like you to think the way you do. I suggest you do some research on the injuries and negligence that results in a seven figure verdict and report back.

    Charles: You are right on. A strong tort system is a serious deterrent to negligent behavior. The framers of the U.S. Constitution recognized that with the 7th Amendment.

    “Awful”: Is that a pun? I have no problem with him running for anything; I have a problem with him WINNING. I have a serious problem with an uninformed electorate that does not vote or lobby in the public’s best interest. That’s the problem in Texas. That state (and many others) vote in the corporate interest, wrongly thinking it will, one day, trickle down. This concept goes all the way back to Ronald Reagan. It has never worked. The rich just get richer. Any one of us can get seriously hurt in an accident. If it has to happen to you, pray that it doesn’t happen in Texas, where people are ALWAYS under compensated and the taxpayers pick up the bill for the corporate wrongdoers. The really sad part of the story is that even the “blue” states have fallen victim to the corporate lie that is “tort reform”.

    Carol: The California effort is exactly what I am talking about. It is a “blue” state that has bought into the lie. The insurance industry lobbies and spends millions to prevent citizens from collecting damages in serious accident cases by screaming things like “lawsuit abuse” and lying to the public. These insurance companies air cute commercials about being “in good hands” or “on your side”. They brag about “friendly service” or “a better state”. These are bottom line companies that only care about PROFITS, not people. We need to spread the word across the land. If you tell someone and I tell someone and they tell someone….maybe we can start a movement! Thanks again for writing.

  5. Rudy Gonzales says:
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    Occupy Wall street often proclaimed “The concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people and the concentration of power in stricter, less compassionate hands,” still holds true today! TEA party fringe elements do not want to accept racism still exists in America. Just like Wayne “Fifi” LePew absolved gun marketers. Radical fringe absolve themselves of any and all racial profiling. The Republican party no longer exists! Do you feel safe in America?