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From E.R. docs to Ford motor, trial lawyer beat-down in Senate

Stinks to be a trial-lawyer/member of the Hall of Justice these days in the state Senate. Once a road block to tort "reform" and the like, the shift toward limiting lawsuits got two boosts in the Senate this morning.

First, the Senate Health Regulation Committee voted 5-2 to give sovereign immunity protections to emergency room docs under a bill sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, whom the trial-lawyer lobby tried to to defeat in his election last year. Proponents say Thrasher's bill is a way to give government protections to people who are required by government to give care to whomever shows up at an E.R. Opponents say the bill removes accountability and could put taxpayers on the hook for damages they otherwise wouldn't have to pay.

At the same time, in a workshop at the Judiciary Committee where no votes were held, the business community and Ford Motor Company (the only American car manufacturer not bleeding red ink) saw favorable signs that their "crash worthiness" bill will move along. Under the crash-worthiness doctrine, plaintiffs can sue a car manufacturer solely on the basis of whether a vehicle that caused them harm due solely to its defects. In the words of New Port Richey Sen. Mike Fasano, it didn't matter if the driver were at fault and was "high on crack, shooting heroin, driving erratically and texting with his toes." (Sounds like Fasano's hitting the hallucinogens with that odd drug-concoction fantasy).

Anyway, under the business-community bill, Ford et. al would be able to tell jurors that the driver was at fault/drunk/acting too much like a texting Jazz musician (heroin joke). Trial-lawyers, who brought in a young man disabled in an accident, say the measure would unfairly obscure the fact that the car itself caused injuries because of faulty manufacturing. Expect the Toyota brake issue to be brought up as the bill moves through the process.

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