What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Consumer Protection : S. 2061. Medical Malpractice/Vote to Limit Debate On and Amendments To Legislation Which Would Impose Caps on Awards in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits. (2004 senate Roll Call 15)
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S. 2061. Medical Malpractice/Vote to Limit Debate On and Amendments To Legislation Which Would Impose Caps on Awards in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits.
senate Roll Call 15     Feb 24, 2004
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

Protecting consumers against harmful products or services in the economic marketplace has been a hallmark of progressive legislation since the industrial revolution. In recent years, progressive lawmakers have attempted to hold tobacco companies, firearms manufacturers, and pharmaceutical firms liable for alleged harms to consumers. Conservative lawmakers, conversely, have advanced legal reforms-so-called tort reforms-which aim to protect businesses from paying large sums to injured consumers. To shield gynecologists and obstetricians from paying what they characterized as often excessive medical malpractice awards, Republican leaders brought tort reform legislation to the Senate floor which would have capped non-economic damages such as pain and suffering at $250,000 in lawsuits against gynecologists and obstetricians. Before the medical liability legislation could proceed to a vote, however, a sixty-vote majority was required to invoke cloture-the subject of this vote-in order to end debate and amending activity on the Senate floor. Progressives voted against the cloture motion based on their opposition to what they characterized as a one-size-fits-all approach to medical malpractice suits. According to Senator Leahy (D-VT), "arbitrarily limiting injured patients' remedies under the law without addressing systemwide medical errors that result in patient harm and death is a recipe for failure. We should be asking what were the things that went wrong; how did these things happen that such a terrible mistake was made?" Based on their support for the underlying legislation, Conservatives voted in favor of cloture and argued that liability caps were needed to curtail what they described as an upsurge in frivolous malpractice lawsuits against gynecologists and obstetricians. Those lawsuits, Conservatives argued, are responsible for they viewed as skyrocketing medical liability premiums. On a party line vote of 48-45, the motion to invoke cloture failed to garner the necessary sixty votes and debate on the underlying legislation to cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits was allowed to continue.

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