Thursday, April 24, 2008



"What we've done, is not extreme."
Governor urges media "to press candidates on this issue"
Then . . . Hulshof hits Steelman, Nixon for "Silence"
Governor Matt Blunt highlighted what he dubbed the "significant achievements" of lawsuit reform legislation Thursday that passed during his first year in office, revealing statistics that show dramatic drops in court claims against doctors.

Blunt said since his tort reform initiative became law, total claims against Missouri physicians have dropped a staggering 61 percent. The Governor also urged the public and media to "press elected officials and candidates for office on this issue," in order to "elect good supporters of lawsuit reform."

Shortly after Blunt's Springfield press conference, Republican candidate for Governor Kenny Hulshof sent out a press release attacking his main rivals "silence" on the issue. The Hulshof campaign said you won't hear Republican Sarah Steelman or Democrat Jay Nixon praise the results of tort reform because "each candidate has hundreds of thousands of reasons to keep silent in the form of campaign donations from trial lawyers."

"Although trial lawyers are traditionally aligned with the Democratic Party in Missouri, their donations serve as a lifeline for both Nixon and Steelman. And it’s no wonder. Trial lawyers see the opportunity to create a “win-win” scenario by pitting Nixon against Steelman in the general election, which would guarantee that a proponent of lawsuit abuse would once again reside in the Governor’s Mansion," reads the campaign release, in its toughest attack since Hulshof entered the race.

Seizing on the Blunt administration's statistics, the Hulshof campaign seems poised to use tort reform as a pivotal wedge issue in its primary campaign against Steelman.

“Tort reform has empowered small businessmen, created jobs and kept doctors in our state,” Hulshof spokesman Scott Baker said. “Kenny Hulshof is the only candidate in this race who supports the common sense reforms that have put an end to out-of-control lawsuit abuse. Kenny will preserve these gains and will not be bought out by the trial lawyer lobby," Baker added.

Beyond the 61 percent drop in total claims against doctors between 2005 and 2006, Blunt said general surgeons, emergency room doctors and OB-GYNs have all seen claims drop by more than 70 percent since he signed lawsuit reform. The cost of the average settlement also fell 14 percent, according to Blunt.

Blunt said that while critics labeled his changes as "extreme," the proof is in the numbers. (Watch clip above.) He said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates that Missouri has moved up from 41st to 34th on the scale of "best legal climates" in the country. He called his policy "reasonable, logical and fair."

The main components of Blunt's tort reform include restrictions on where cases can be tried and limits on awards for punitive damages. The law limits non-economic damages in medical liability cases to $350,000.

Blunt said the next Governor will need to be vigilant in "responding to court decisions" that are difficult to predict.

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