C. David Durkee
Over the last decade, money interests have begun to trample on consumers and consumer rights. Under the banner of “Tort Reform” and based on hyperbole like “runaway verdicts”, insurance companies, physicians, home builders, drug manufacturers, oil companies, and other big money interests have been able to target the legislative branch and seek protections far greater than regular individuals.
In order to understand how big money interests can change the rules of the game and create a system that is simply unjust, one must simply look at two examples – doctors and rent a car companies.
Look at how doctors, a profession which has an average income of over $200,000 for primary care physicians and almost $400,000 for specialists, are treated compared to the rest of our society. Under Florida law, if a physician is treating a 60 year old single male whose only survivor is a 30 year old son and the physician commits malpractice and, unfortunately, kills the patient, then the surviving 30 year old son cannot sue for damages for the loss of his father. However, if a plumber, whose average income is about $50,000.00, is driving down the road after a long day and is tired and negligently runs into the back of a car and kills a 60 year old single male whose only survivor is a 30 year old son, then the plumber can be sued by the 30 year old son for damages due to the loss of his father. How can this be? Well big money interests, such as physicians and the American Medical Association and medical malpractice insurance carriers, had the financial resources to lobby the Florida legislature so that they would make a “special” law that would solely apply to “medical malpractice” cases. Once this law was passed, doctors were immune from these types of lawsuits in Florida while everyone else in Florida was responsible for the damages they caused. This simply does not make sense. Who is in a better position to purchase insurance to make sure they are protected from these types of claims – a physician or a plumber. Obviously, the answer is the doctor. However, under this system a plumber has to buy insurance so he is protected from these claims and a doctor will not because he is immune.
Who is in a better position to purchase insurance to make sure they are protected from these types of claims – a physician or a plumber… Under this system a plumber has to buy insurance so he is protected from these claims and a doctor will not because he is immune.
Another example is Rent-a-Car companies. Under Florida law any person that owns a car is responsible for the negligence of the driver. So if you lend a friend your car and your friend drives negligently and injures someone, you, as the owner, are responsible for the damage caused. This is so because an automobile is considered a dangerous instrumentality. However, a few years back the Federal legislature passed a law called the Graves Amendment that excluded rental cars from this Florida law. Therefore, rental car companies that have a commercial incentive to place as many cars on the street in Florida as possible and who make millions of dollars renting cars, are not responsible as the owner of the care for the damage caused by the driver. This is shocking when you consider that rent-a-car companies can afford to pay for insurance on their fleet of cars and most individuals struggle to afford good car insurance. Again, big money interests created a system that allows a commercial entity, the rent a car companies, to walk away from any damages caused by their vehicles but requires an ordinary working man to be responsible for the damage caused by his vehicle.
These are only two real world examples how the ordinary American is treated differently from a profession or an industry that has the money to lobby for special protections. Traditionally, our country has been a country that drafted laws to protect the weakest among us; now our country is a country that drafts laws for the richest among us.
This problem is only expected to get worse with the Supreme Court decision of Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). This decision paves the way for more unfettered campaign spending by corporations. This unfettered spending will cause even more money to flow into an already corrupt system.
We need to stand up and fight. We need to make sure we adhere to our principles and treat physicians, plumbers, individuals and corporations equally under the law. We cannot allow this county to fall into a two tier society – the haves and the have nots.
Our firm is here to bring awareness of these unjust laws. Our firm is here to help change these laws. Our firm is here to level the playing field when David fights Goliath. Join us in this cause. Help us change the way the system works. 2016 is going to be a year where we advocate for change.
by C. David Durkee
by Lou Dobb