In a recent Orlando Sentinel article, two large Florida Companies, Publix and Disney World, are pushing for lobbyist to propose a new legislation, which they are marketing as “Truth in Damages.”
Essentially, the desired legislation would be as follows:
The companies, in litigation, want the jurors to see the actual amount a victim pays for medical treatment, rather than the initial amounts. Next, they want the jury to accept only costs that are “customarily accepted, “ when a victim has yet to make any payments. And lastly, they want victims in a negligence action to be prohibited from being awarded any payments for medical treatments deemed unnecessary. Garcia, Jason. “Publix, Disney aim to cut lawsuit awards for accident victims.” Orlando Sentinel Orlando, July 10th, 2013. Online
It is easy to understand why both Disney and Publix are pushing for litigation that would limit the amount juries award to victims of negligence. These companies have to pay out large sums annually in litigation costs in jury verdicts. Some may say those costs are part of the price of doing business, but that is only part of it. These payments also put these and other large companies on notice for bad practices and areas where they should make improvements to how their businesses run.
By asking for juries to see the actual amount a victim pays for their medical treatment does two things. Yes, it may reduce the costs Disney, Publix, and other companies may eventually pay. However, it also forces proceedings to drag on longer while medical bills are determined and possibly, but not necessarily, reduced.
This, in turn, puts an onus on the Plaintiff’s attorney to either pay bills without attempting to have them reduced. This cost would ostensibly be passed back on to these companies when they pay out the jury determined reward. Either way the victim is forced to wait longer their pain is extending before a decision can be made by the jury.
The request for payments to be awarded to only those costs that are “customarily accepted” also may place the victim at both greater risk in the future, or holding the bill for medical treatments they received. In essence, this part of the legislation would allow for a payment cap for medical procedures. This means that specialists and new but accepted forms of treatment for certain injuries would not be used in the treatment of a victim, in lieu of “customarily accepted” options.
As for litigation costs and jury verdicts in favor of the victims, it is a part of our legal system that both sides of the case are given the opportunity to present and defend their case, even if that means presenting evidence that rebuts the other side? Our legal system is in this way just.
These large sums are arrived at by a jury, who by definition are a group of our peers. At the end of the day someone was the victim to another’s negligence. Our legal system may not be perfect, but if we do err, shouldn’t it be in favor of the side that the jury decided for?
This new legislation would undoubtedly leave many victims under compensated for their injuries—these same victims are not nationally known companies with vast revenues. They are individuals who were harmed because that large company failed to protect their consumer.