I thought it was a bad dream–that I had nodded off while watching the most recent presidential debate and experienced a nightmare in which Barack Obama had proudly announced to the viewing public that he had supported tort reform . But then my wife confirmed that Obama, my candidate, the People’s candidate, the Great Black Hope, had indeed uttered those words in response to John McCain’s challenge to give an example of Obama’s crossing party lines to support something most Democrats did not.
Obama could have chosen more wisely. He could have, and should have spoken of something else on which he veered from the Democratic pack. Surely he realizes that so called “trial lawyers” like me support him across the country, and to us, Obama’s words were a cold slap in the face.
We support him for several reasons. His ideology–his ideas about making sure everyone in this country, no matter how disadvantaged, has an opportunity to better him or herself with some help from the government–resounds with us. The type of law we practice, largely grounded in contingency fees, allows for anyone who has been harmed wrongfully to go after the culprit without having to lay out large retainers up front, or pay big hourly fees along the way.
We support him because his healthcare plan shows a concern for the uninsured and the under insured. We support him because he has repudiated the Bush legacy that favored big corporations at the expense of the “little people,” such as their shareholders. And yet, tort reform favors big corporations– insurance companies– at the expense of plaintiffs in civil lawsuits, who find their opportunities for damages arbitrarily capped at a number that has been legislated, instead of a number chosen by the jury that heard the case.
I’m still voting for Obama come election day. But it is with substantially less enthusiasm, since his presidential agenda may now include tort “reform” that will only hurt the very people who have placed him so close to achieving the presidency.