Coalition starts drive to defeat Questions 4, 5
September 13, 2004
RENO – A coalition of business and health care representatives introduced a campaign Monday aimed at defeating ballot measures they say are attempts by personal injury lawyers to trick voters.
Nevadans Against Frivolous Lawsuits held news conferences in Reno and Las Vegas to preview a television ad that began airing statewide. The ad opposes Question 4 and Question 5 on the November ballot as benefiting trial lawyers at the expense of patients and consumers.
Both measures are a “sneaky way for trial attorneys to make sure they line their pockets,” said Carson City eye surgeon Dr. Michael Fischer, president of the Nevada State Medical Association.
Gail Tuzzolo of the Yes on Questions 4 and 5 group denied claims that the measures were written to deceive.
“That’s a lie,” she said.
Earlier this month, Fischer filed a complaint against the group with Secretary of State Dean Heller over campaign finance reports.
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Though Question 4, with a provision to roll back insurance rates, sounds appealing, critics said it could have the opposite effect if costs rise, insurance carriers pull out of the state and competition is reduced.
Question 4 also would void medical malpractice reforms approved during a special legislative session in 2002.
Doctors are offering a competing ballot measure on the November ballot.
Question 3, backed by the Keep Our Doctors in Nevada organization, would cap pain and suffering awards in malpractice cases at $350,000.
“If we continue to lose doctors … the end result is everyone in the state, including the children of attorneys, are going to lose,” said Fischer.
Tuzzolo countered that Question 3 “protects bad doctors but takes away patient rights by saying you get $350,000, even if the doctor who injures the patient has been repeatedly careless or reckless.”
Question 5 calls for outlawing frivolous lawsuits, but also would prevent limits being placed on what lawyers can earn for representing clients.
“Putting it into the Constitution brings it to a new level of seriousness and we believe it punishes lawyers and corporations who bring frivolous lawsuits,” Tuzzolo said.
Critics counter there are already means to punish lawyers and plaintiffs for filing frivolous cases and that the latest proposal would make it more difficult to bring such actions.
Mary Lau of the Nevada Retailers Association and John Madole, Nevada executive director of the Associated General Contractors of America, said both reforms would be onerous for the state’s business climate and add thousands of dollars to the cost of a home.
Tuzzolo said trial lawyers were not trying to hide their support of the proposed amendments.
“Nobody’s denied that many lawyers are helping fund this initiative,” she said.