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Tag Archives: Heritage Foundation

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.

Thomas amends financial disclosures (access required)

After coming under fire for failing to include his wife’s income from conservative organizations on federal financial disclosure forms, Justice Clarence Thomas yesterday filed amended reports, calling the omission an oversight.

Thomas attributed the error to a “misunderstanding of the filing instructions.” Friday The Los Angeles Times reported that in the original filings, Thomas checked a box labeled “none” where “spousal noninvestment income” would be disclosed despite the fact that Virginia Thomas earned in excess of $686,000 from the Heritage Foundation according to income returns filed with the IRS.

The explanation did not satisfy Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, the liberal watchdog group that has also asked the Justice Department to investigate Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia after they spoke at a conservative retreat in 2007.

“Justice Thomas sits on the highest court of the land, is called upon daily to understand and interpret the most complicated legal issues of our day and makes decisions that affect millions,” said Edgar in a statement. “It is hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form. We find his excuse is implausible.”

Legal analyst Andrew Cohen points out this caveat on the forms Thomas signed: “Any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or fails to file this report may be subject to civil and criminal sanctions.”

According to the Ethics in Government Act, the maximum penalty for failure to properly fill out the disclosure forms is $10,000. “The Attorney General may bring a civil action in any appropriate United States district court against any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or who knowingly and willfully fails to file or report any information that such individual is required to report,” the Act states.