THE AMERICAN WAY: A Plea for Responsibility and Accountability under the Law for All

Fight Tort Reform

Author: Attorney Malcolm P. McConnell, III

How important to you are traditional American values?  Do you believe that America rose to greatness due to hard work, self-reliance and personal accountability? Do you believe that for America to remain great, we must preserve these values as individuals and as a nation?

Of course you do.  So do I.

We teach our children, "You break it, you bought it."  We teach them to clean up their messes.  We teach them to pay their debts and accept responsibility for their mistakes.  We hope that by teaching them these values of personal accountability, they will grow into responsible, mature contributing members of society.  We also hope that society will reinforce those values, with laws and customs that promote self-reliance and accountability.  These are the values of prosperity and integrity.  They are also the values of equality because they apply to all persons, rich and poor, strong and weak, human and corporate.

To exempt any class of persons from accountability would be unfair. It would be un-American.  This much is obvious.

But it would also be harmful to make special exceptions.  And it isn't hard to see why.

Personal accountability is not merely an abstract virtue.  It is not merely accumulating "brownie points" that we can cash in after we die for a better residence in heaven.  Accountability promotes the general welfare by rewarding good behavior and discouraging bad behavior.  If I am forced to pay for the harm I cause, I will try to avoid causing harm.  Never mind altruism and good character; I will want to avoid causing harm for purely selfish reasons if I know I am likely to be held accountable for my actions.

When we make exceptions to accountability, we not only punish victims of bad behavior (heaping injustice on top of injustice), but we provide incentive for bad behavior, especially when that bad behavior was motivated by greed.  Liability motivates people to act more safely.

Furthermore, when we see that people are held accountable for their actions by the law, we are more likely to perceive our legal system as one that works for us all.  When people are not held accountable, we have less confidence in the justice system and the government in general.  A system that does not appear to be fair and equitable cannot hope to maintain the support and confidence of the general public.

This is an example of why tort reform - especially medical malpractice reform - is bad public policy.  Reducing the liability of health care providers - whether individual physicians or multi-billion dollar corporate mega-companies like HCA - reduces their incentive to minimize risk.  Reducing their liability adds injustice to the often tragic, life-altering injustice suffered by their victims.  Singling out a class of persons as "more valuable" and "above accountability" is un-American.

Fight the creation of a privileged class.  Resist any attempt to reward wrongdoers.  Protect innocent victims.

Fight tort reform.

About the Attorney: Mic McConnell is a Richmond medical malpractice lawyer. With over 20 years of experience, Mic has handled challenging cases all over the state of Virginia in almost every medical specialty for over twenty years.

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