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Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications


Walsh praises Governor's veto of trial lawyers' bill

Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh praised Governor Pataki's veto of a bill that would have increased trial lawyers' fees in medical malpractice cases, while decreasing the amounts received by victims.

The Governor vetoed S.554, which would have repealed existing limits on trial lawyers' fees in medical, dental and podiatric malpractice cases. Enacted as part of the 1985 Medical Malpractice Reform Act, the fee schedule for such cases allows lawyers to charge clients fees up to 30 percent of the first $250,000 recovered, gradually declining to 10 percent of any recovery over $1.25 million.

In his veto message, Governor Pataki said repeal of the existing law "could affect both the cost and availability of medical malpractice insurance and, thus, the number of doctors that practice in this state, and the cost patients pay for their medical care."

"I recognize that there are forceful arguments on both sides and amending or repealing the contingent fee schedule may be appropriate," the Governor said. "The merits of this proposal, however, cannot be assessed properly in a vacuum. Rather, they should be considered only in the context of a fair, balanced and comprehensive examination of New York's civil justice system."

Walsh praised the Governor for rejecting "this anti-consumer bill," saying the veto helps malpractice victims who deserve compensation as well as other New Yorkers who bear the cost of too many lawsuits.

"This bill would have done nothing for malpractice victims," Walsh said. "It would not have increased settlements or verdicts one penny. It would not have increased damage awards or tightened malpractice standards. In fact, its sole effect, and entire purpose, would have been to give lawyers more money, by giving malpractice victims less.

"The fact that this was a top priority for the trial lawyers' lobby tells you something about the root cause of litigiousness in our society," Walsh added. "The Governor's action is a strong signal that the time has come for a comprehensive reform of our civil justice system."