Rudolph Giuliani, the keynote speaker at an annual conference sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform, used his experiences as mayor of New York City to talk about why he believed tort reform was necessary.
Giuliani said at the Chamber's Legal Reform Summit that almost every year he was mayor, the city's tort bill for hospitals was $300 million because of all the malpractice lawsuits. "I would have to say without even worrying about being contradicted that half of that and more was just absolutely phony claims because we have a tort system in new York that is completely unfair, completely biased," he said.
Giuliani said this was because when jurors in New York saw the city as a defendant, they sometimes forgot that they are part of the city, which has to pick up the tab when plaintiffs win such cases.
As an example, Giuliani cited the case of a man who was fleeing from the police when he tripped on a pothole and became paralyzed. The man recovered a $70 million dollar settlement, he said. The number was reduced to $4 million--but it still made him the richest man his prison, he said.
Giuliani said Texas was a good example of a state that has benefited from tort reforms. This includes an increase in the number of doctors there, and lowered healthcare costs, he said.
He said New York City's system, and the trial lawyers who benefit from it, had the opposite effect. "All they did was make my doctors paranoid that the decision they made was [going to] get second-guessed, and made them practice much worse in medicine than they would have practiced if they had acted normally."
He concluded that "our legal system needs checks and balances on it to make sure that it is equitable and fair."
The American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, said Giuliani's remarks were entirely off base.
“Keep in mind, Mr. Giuliani was the keynote speaker at a corporate sponsored, U.S. Chamber event dedicated to undermining the civil justice system," said AAJ spokeswoman Michelle Kimmel in a statement. "Time and again we see the U.S. Chamber act in ways that hurt American consumers and small businesses in order to benefit multinational corporations, but the last thing our country needs is the reduced accountability prescribed by Giuliani and the U.S. Chamber."