Rhetoric masks reality on nursing home liability bill

An editorial from the Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senator Jeff Kessler had harsh words and dire warnings on Wednesday for those seeking to reform legal liability for West Virginia nursing homes.

“We are capping and trading the rights of the people of this state! You want to talk about cap and trade — this is a cap and trade bill, we’re capping the exposure to wrongdoers and we’re trading their rights.” Kessler thundered.

Wisely, a less overwrought point of view carried the day. The bill passed the Senate yesterday on a 26-8 vote, with eight Democrats voting in favor.

West Virginians may recall that before the state’s medical malpractice liability laws were reformed in 2003, residents were barraged with ads from trial lawyers seeking clients to sue doctors.

The 2003 reforms made doctors less attractive targets for lawsuits by limiting the eye-popping amounts plaintiffs and their lawyers had been collecting.

So the lawyers looked elsewhere. Now their ads target nursing homes. It’s easy to understand why, when one lawsuit against a nursing home resulted in a $38 million payout

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