One of the biggest standing ovations at the recent Republican convention occurred when the speaker attacked trial lawyers because they are driving up the cost of health care with their malpractice lawsuits.
It was a dangerous move, because there is now a lawyer in every household; I have one in my family. She was watching the convention with me on television in the living room.
She said, "What do they know about malpractice? They're not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them God."
"But it is good politics," I said.
"I had a case where a surgeon removed the wrong breast from a patient. Another doctor had to remove the correct breast. If anyone ever needed a trial lawyer, she did."
I was appalled.
She said, "It wasn't just a question of money. My client wanted to put the doctor out of business so he would never operate again."
She continued, "Now here is the rotten part of it. The insurance company representing the doctor also had a trial lawyer. He tried to blacken her name to the jury and prove my client was responsible for what happened.
"Trial lawyers are hired not only to bring malpractice suits, they are also signed up as defense lawyers by doctors and drug companies. The lobbyists in Washington want Congress to put a cap on the amount of money awarded in suits that would punish doctors and drug companies."
"I have never met a lobbyist who didn't get what he wanted," I said.
She continued, "Trial lawyers don't just do malpractice cases. They also defend people accused of white-collar crimes. I'll bet there are a lot of them in the hall right now."
"How do you know?"
"They are the ones sitting on their hands when everyone else is on their feet cheering the attacks on lawyers."
"I can see why they could be upset."
"The law is the trial lawyers' bread and butter. They will defend not only Republicans, but Democrats as well, if the fee is right," she said. "And in class-action suits, they will charge whatever the traffic will bear."
"Is the reason the Republicans don't like John Edwards because he made so much money as a trial lawyer?"
"They say that, but the truth is, when anyone gets in trouble, the first person they call is a lawyer. I only wish I had the legal fees of Martha Stewart, Ken Lay, Kobe Bryant and any bank accused of getting in trouble with the government."
"Are government lawyers also members of the trial lawyer profession?"
"Yes, if they are any good. And when they leave the government, they represent the side they prosecuted."
She asked, "Did you know that if trial lawyers were forbidden to practice there would be no courtroom television shows?"
"Do people who are booing trial lawyers also hate people who serve on juries?"
"They do if the jurors award the plaintiffs more than $500,000, or whatever the cap would be. The country needs doctors, preferably those who don't make mistakes. But it also needs lawyers in case they do."
"Then this demonstration does not bother you?"
"Not as long as Congress is made up of lawyers."
(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services