Liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has informed his readers that he had lunch with Senator John Edwards and his wife at their “house in Washington” back in 2002. That house is a $3 million Georgetown mansion. But Cohen’s purpose wasn’t just to show us how important he is. He came away convinced that Edwards had a “passion for social justice,” that Edwards wanted to “make amends” for how the South once treated blacks. Edwards, Cohen said, is “ready” for high office.
It’s fascinating, however, that Cohen did not tell us what, if anything, Edwards had done in the legal profession over the course of a lucrative career of two decades to bring that about. One searched in vain in Cohen’s column for any hint that Edwards had done such a thing.
Cohen did not ignore the nature of Edwards’ legal career. Cohen claimed that Edwards was a “trial lawyer who sued the pants off rich corporations and lousy doctors, making them pay for maiming people in the grand cause of profit.” But why didn’t Edwards, in the course of making $50 million, do anything on behalf of “social justice” for blacks? The American Tort Reform Association has labeled Edwards and his colleagues “Learjet lawyers” who have made hundreds of millions of dollars exploiting the civil justice system. Their concern for the poor translated into big bucks for themselves.
The claim that Edwards went after “lousy doctors” is also open to question. As an “ambulance chaser,” Edwards made a career out of targeting doctors and hospitals. The Raleigh News & Observer reported that, “One Charlotte obstetrician quit her practice after losing a $23 million suit that was handled by Edwards. The St. Paul Group of Minnesota, the main medical malpractice carrier in the state, stopped offering insurance to obstetricians, citing high settlements. Dr. David Newman, a Charlotte obstetrician, says trial lawyers such as Edwards are a major reason that malpractice insurance premiums are rising so rapidly. Faced with annual increases of 25 to 30 percent, Newman said he has cut his OB-GYN practice in half to reduce his liability exposure.”
It’s not clear that the doctors targeted by Edwards were lousy. He has been accused of bringing dubious lawsuits blaming botched baby deliveries for cerebral palsy. Back on January 31, in a story about Edwards’ career, New York Times reporters Adam Liptak and Michael Moss said that studies show that the vast majority of children who developed cerebral palsy were damaged long before labor. Marc Morano of CNS News says there is evidence that the Edwards lawsuits were based on “junk science.”
Junk lawsuits and outrageous verdicts have created a crisis in many states. In Maryland, the state’s largest malpractice insurance company announced its intention to raise doctors’ premiums by 41 percent, on top of last year’s 28 percent hike. Maryland doctors, especially obstetricians and gynecologists, are already quitting or leaving the state. Medical liability insurance costs are rising for hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living programs, adult day-care operators and nurses. Where’s the “social justice” in that?