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Nevada Faces Tort Reality

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

A hepatitis C outbreak is causing Nevada to re-think tort “reform.” Specifically, the Nevada legislature may revoke a cap on non-economic damages passed in 2004 as part of the “Keep Our Doctors in Nevada (KODIN) Act.”

When six patients of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada were diagnosed with hepatitis C — a dangerous disease spread by blood-to-blood contact — investigators found that the clinic had been reusing syringes and single-dose vials of medicine for multiple patients. This was a serious breach of standard hygienic practice.

Hepatitis C can lead to chronic, lifelong liver disease that severely impairs quality of life. However, KODIN had capped punitive damages to $350,000 in medical malpractice cases. Opponents of the KODIN cap say the cap prevented victims from being adequately compensated for what clear medical malpractice had done to them. The outbreak also reinforced arguments that capping medical malpractice awards erodes quality of medical care.

BTW, catch the things one can learn through a little Googling —

The campaign for the 2004 Nevada “tort reform” act was funded by a KODIN PAC. The largest contributor to the PAC was Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center of Las Vegas, which pitched in $75,000 to the PAC. Sunrise is owned by the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America, based in Nashville, TN. HCA was founded by the Frist family, of which former Republican Senator Bill Frist is a member.

At the time Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center of Los Vegas was shoveling $75,000 to the KODIN PAC the Senator’s father and brother were in charge of HCA. Frist himself kept his shares in a blind trust while he was in the Senate. Yet there is no doubt he pursued legislation that helped HCA earnings.

John Nichols wrote in The Nation, November 2006, as Frist was preparing to end his Senate career: “By blocking needed health care reforms, pushing for tort reforms that would limit malpractice payouts and supporting moves to privatize Medicare, Frist pumped up his family’s fortunes at the expense of Americans who lacked access to health care.”

Frist sold his shares of HCA in 2005 just before disappointing earnings reports caused a drop in their value. An investigation later cleared Frist of insider trading charges. Most of Frist’s personal fortune of several million dollars was made through his holdings in HCA.

April 30, 2009
Barbara O’Brien

2 Responses to “Nevada Faces Tort Reality”

  1. Weird Science | Mesothelioma and the Politics of Asbestos Litigation Says:

    [...] through, um, behavioral caution, but some cannot. We learned recently how a number of people were infected with hepatitis C through sloppy medical practices at an endoscopy [...]

  2. Who Loses When Tort Law Is “Reformed”? | Mesothelioma and the Politics of Asbestos Litigation Says:

    [...] situation in Colorado is very similar to a recent hepatitis outbreak in Nevada. In the Nevada case, patients were infected because an endoscopy clinic had been reusing syringes [...]