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In fight against HR 5, AAJ and conservative groups form unusual coalition

As lawmakers prepare to take up the controversial tort reform legislation later this week, the measure is creating a strange coalition of opponents seeking to stop the bill in its tracks.

As we’ve reported in Lawyers USA, the trial lawyers’ group the American Association for Justice has actively opposed H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Health Care (HEALTH) Act. The bill, which would cap non-economic damages in medical negligence cases at $250,000 and repeal part of the federal health care law aimed at cutting Medicare costs, is set for a House vote later this week.

But AAJ officials say the bill affects far more than medical malpractice cases. It is a “far-­reaching bill that would affect caps on damages,  limits on attorneys’ fees, medical negligence law, nursing home cases, medical device and pharmaceutical cases, and bad faith cases against health insurers,” according to a message to AAJ’s membership.

AAJ officials tell me that the bill would also thwart suits against doctors who commit intentional torts, such as sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the Tea Party movement have also attacked the measure, saying it infringes upon states’ rights and violates the Commerce Clause, according to the InjuryBoard’s Andrew Cochran.

Cochran quotes the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky’s statement on the group’s blog The Foundry:

“The problem with most of the proposed reforms in H.R. 5 is that the law governing medical malpractice claims is a state issue, not a federal issue. Despite H.R. 5′s reliance on the Commerce Clause, Congress has no business (and no authority under the Constitution) telling states what the rules should be governing medical malpractice claims,” Spakovsky writes.

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