Citizens for a Fair Share, a group backed by the Florida Medical Association, is seeking to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in the Sunshine State to limit attorneys’ fees in medical malpractice cases; it’ll need to collect 450,000 verified signatures (Donna Wright, “Doctors petition for tighter cap on fees”, Bradenton Herald, Nov. 4; Gary Fineout, “A Crisis Or Battle Of Special Interests”, Lakeland Ledger, Nov. 24; Patrick Danner, “Lawyers’ fees come under fire”, Miami Herald, Jan. 4; “Sunshine, Ballots and Lawyers”, Center for Individual Freedom, Feb. 12). But Associated Industries of Florida, the state’s leading business group, is opposing the measure (Diane Hirth, “Lobby groups disagree on drive”, Tallahassee Democrat, Jan. 31)(FMA statement).
As for the state’s trial lawyers, they have already prepared revenge initiatives against the doctors. A group calling itself Floridians for Patient Protection, a political action committee of the Academy of Florida Trial Attorneys, is collecting signatures for three constitutional amendment proposals of its own. One of its proposals “would require physicians to charge the same fee for the same service to all patients.” (Liz Freeman, “Supporters of cap on attorney fees collect enough signatures for review”, Naples Daily News, Feb. 11). The executive director of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers describes the initiatives as “countermeasures to ensure that the FMA must play defense first and offense second” (Scott Carruthers, “Pressing Forward”, Jan. 1, likely to rotate off URL). (Update Jul. 20: both doctors’ and lawyers’ measures qualify for ballot.) The revenge-initiative technique has served the litigation lobby well in California ballot battles. After insurance companies were so rash as to support efforts to obtain liability reform through the initiative process, trial lawyers struck back in 1988 with the rate-slashing Proposition 103, which inflicted huge losses on the industry. And when high-tech execs stepped to the plate with a batch of initiatives aimed at curbing litigation, the trial lawyers’ riposte was a counter-initiative that would have put the executives’ personal homes and assets at risk in a much broader range of securities cases. Both groups got the message, and abandoned the California initiative game.