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Continuing Legal Education

Protect the 7th Amendment – Oppose HR 5

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Do you believe in the Constitution? Is the Bill of Rights important to you and your family? If the answer to these questions is yes, you should be aware that the 7th Amendment to the United States Constitution is under attack. The 7th Amendment guarantees every citizen’s right to a jury trial. It guarantees that, when disputes arise between the people and the powerful, it is a jury of your peers which decides the issues.

While the powerful dominate the legislature with money and influence through lobbyists, they cannot buy juries. They buy campaigns. They buy politicians. They cannot buy the ordinary citizens that make up juries all across this country. This is why, as you read this message, lobbyists, through the Congress, are attempting to pass a bill which is designed to tie the hands of juries across the United States. It is a top-down, one-size-fits-all “tort reform” bill which would dictate to every State, including Arkansas, what juries have the right to decide.

This week, U. S. House leaders will bring to the floor HR 5, legislation that would limit the legal rights of injured patients and families of those killed by negligent health care. This bill is so outrageously broad that it covers not only cases involving medical malpractice, but also cases involving unsafe drugs and nursing home abuse and neglect.

Up until now, there has been so much opposition to the bill – not just from the public interest community, but also from Tea Party folks – that House leaders haven’t had the nerve to bring this bill to a vote. Now, they have decided to force the issue.

The key provision of HR 5 would establish a permanent across-the-board $250,000.00 “cap” on compensation for “non-economic” injuries suffered by patients. Non-economic damages compensate for quality of life injuries like permanent disability, loss of a woman’s reproductive system, disfigurement, trauma, loss of a limb, blindness or loss of the value of life itself. Former-President Clinton vetoed a similar bill in 1996, explaining it this way:

The legislation would make it impossible for some people to recover fully for non-economic damages. This is especially unfair to senior citizens, women, children, who have few economic damages, and poor people, who may suffer grievously but, because their incomes are low, have few economic damages.

This kind of bill has already passed in numerous states across the nation and, despite what its proponents claim, it has had absolutely no effect on the rising cost of healthcare. Doctors’ malpractice premiums have not gone down. The effect has only been to deprive citizens of their rights.

This is so important because medical errors have reached epidemic levels in this country. 98,000 deaths per year are caused by preventable medical errors. Further insulating health care providers from accountability in front of a jury of their peers will take away the only deterrent against carelessness and a “profits over patients” mentality.

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The larger point is that juries should decide on a case-by-case basis what an individual has the right to recover. The 7th Amendment exists for a reason. The jury system has always brought balance to our society by providing a level playing field for ordinary citizens against powerful interests; a place where facts and evidence prevail; where ordinary citizens have a voice. The powerful, of course, can’t stand this level playing field, which is why they are attempting to use the power they have in Congress to impose their will on every jury in America, thus stripping all of us of our constitutional rights.

You can make a difference. Call your Congressman and tell him that you oppose HR 5.

Sincerely,

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TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY
THAT YOU SUPPORT OUR CONSTITUTION,
AND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE SHOULD, TOO

Congressional District 1
Rep. Rick Crawford (R – 01)
1408 Longworth Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Toll Free: NONE
Phone: 202-225-4076
Fax: 202-225-5602
Contact Form: https://crawford.house.gov/Contact/
Web: https://www.house.gov/crawford
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RepRickCrawford
Twitter: @reprickcrawford

Congressional District 2
Rep. Tim Griffin (R – 02)
1232 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Toll Free: NONE
Phone: 202-225-2506
Fax: 202-225-5903
Contact Form: https://griffin.house.gov/contact-me/email-me
Web: https://griffin.house.gov/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RepTimGriffin
Twitter: @RepTimGriffin

Congressional District 3
Rep. Steve Womack (R – 03)
1508 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Toll Free: NONE
Phone: 202-225-4301
Fax: 202-225-5713
Contact Form: https://womack.house.gov/Contact/
Web: https://www.house.gov/womack
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RepSteveWomack?v=wall
Twitter: @rep_stevewomack

Congressional District 4
Rep. Mike Ross (D – 04)
2436 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Toll Free: 800-223-2220
Phone: 202-225-3772
Fax: 202-225-1314
Contact Form: https://ross.house.gov/Contact/
Web: https://ross.house.gov/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RepMikeRoss
Twitter: @repmikeross