I continue to be dismayed at Governor Perdue’s apparent disdain for his constituents, the hard-working Everyday Georgians. His proposal to eliminate the right and ability of Georgia citizens to hold Georgia pharmaceutical companies responsible for injuries they cause here in Georgia is INSULTING and a slap in the face of every Georgian. Not to mention the fact that it is probably unconstitutional, as it would limit only the rights of Georgians to seek justice, not of other Americans’ ability to sue Georgia pharmaceutical companies. Imagine that! Governor Perdue is ready, willing and able to throw away your rights because you live in Georgia, but he can’t take away the rights of someone living, say, in Alabama who has been injured by a Georgia pharmaceutical company. What a joke! But, unfortunately, Governor Perdue, in his continued shortsightedness and misunderstanding of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Georgia, will be attempting to get the Georgia General Assembly to pass such an insane law.
My good friend and fellow trial lawyer, Jay Cook, wrote an op-ed column in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution today. It is reprinted below. Jay, like me, is a Past Preident of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Jay is also a former President of the State Bar of Georgia and now continues the fight to protect the inalienable rights of all Georgians. Good job, Friend! And Fellow Georgians, please contact Governor Perdue’s office and let him know you are not going to take it any more. Also, please contact your State Senator and State Representative and ask them to vote against the Governor’s proposed limitation of your rights.
Should Georgia limit liability for drug companies? CON
Our safety needs to be defended
By JAY COOK
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
A little over four years ago, a veteran Federal Drug Administration scientist rocked the pharmaceutical industry with Senate testimony that exposed a legalized conflict of interest that was endangering the health and safety of the American public: the FDA’s funding depends largely on the success of products of the industry it regulates. “The FDA is incapable of protecting America from unsafe drugs or from another Vioxx,” Dr. David Graham warned.
Gov. Sonny Perdue has introduced a bill promising freedom from liability to Georgia-based pharmaceutical companies that sell FDA-approved drugs and devices. The bill would make it nearly impossible for Georgians to sue for injuries caused by these products. He claims it will lure more businesses to Georgia and “protect Georgia companies from personal injury lawyers.” But who will protect consumers from pharmaceutical companies that care more about profits than people? Obviously not the FDA.
Gov. Perdue calls his bill “tort reform.” But it’s got “rulebook rigging” written all over it. Rulebook rigging is my term for industries or special interest groups that try to game the system so they can legalize putting profits ahead of public safety.
Unfortunately, rulebook rigging isn’t limited to the FDA. The Consumer Products Safety Commission, OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency, among other public safety watchdogs, also have been cut to the bone or reconfigured to cater to the industries they’re supposed to be policing.
If we need evidence (beyond Vioxx, Rezulin, fen-phen and Bextra) of the disastrous consequences of allowing industries to neuter their own government watchdogs, we need only look to Wall Street.
But even without such preferential oversight, consumers have only one place to turn when something goes wrong: our civil justice system.
But that protection, too, is being undermined thanks to tort “reform” — another rulebook rigging scam. To date, the powerful special interests pushing these “reforms” have spent more than $1 billion to brainwash us (and get a tax deduction) with contrived horror stories about how lawsuits are driving up insurance rates and putting good doctors out of business. The truth is that lawsuits, which have no impact on insurance rates, don’t put good doctors out of business — but, thanks to “reform” — lawsuits can’t hold bad ones accountable, either. Meanwhile, health care costs and insurance rates are still skyrocketing.
Our elected state representatives, who capped damages on medical malpractice lawsuits four years ago, seem to have forgotten that the civil justice system is there to enforce the rulebook of fair play, to keep America and Americans safe and to deter and punish wrongful behavior that injures others. Or have they?
The founding fathers must be rolling in their graves. They handed down government regulations and impartial civil juries for a reason: to promote public trust and safety and to keep our rights from being trampled by tyrants with too much power and money and too little humanity. They understood that America needed more than the free market economy to enforce the practice of fair play because they knew that not everyone plays fair. As James Madison, father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, wrote: “If men were angels we would need no government.”
It may not be too late to preserve our legacy. But first we must stop listening to the fear-mongering flim-flam of rulebook riggers and start seeing the game for what it really is: a con to pocket higher profits at the expense of our safety and our sacred right to liberty and justice for all. Shouldn’t the American Dream be about more than money?
• Jay Cook is president of the board of directors of the Georgia Civil Justice Foundation and a past president of the State Bar of Georgia.