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ARCHIVE -- SEPT. 2001 (II)

September 19-20 -- Profiling, again.  There's a fairly wide consensus at the moment that airport detectives, border guards and various other kinds of security personnel are sometimes, at least, entitled to apply closer scrutiny to groups of youngish men of Middle Eastern extraction than to groups of elderly women of Scottish descent.  Does that mean abandoning our longstanding ideal of equality under the law, or is there some place to draw a principled line?  (Joyce Purnick, "Last Week, Profiling Was Wrong", New York Times, Sept. 15 (reg)). 

WORTH READING: Michael Brus, "Proxy War", Slate, July 9, 1999; James Forman Jr., "Arrested Development: The Conservative Case Against Racial Profiling", The New Republic, Sept. 10; Randall Kennedy, "Suspect Policy", The New Republic, Sept. 13, 1999; Yahoo Full Coverage; Heather Mac Donald, "The Myth of Racial Profiling", City Journal, Spring; George Will, "Racial profiling may be more myth than reality", Washington Post/Detroit News, April 23; and see (linked already Sept. 14-15) Tarek E. Masoud, "American Muslims Are Americans.  Let's Act Like It", WSJ OpinionJournal.com, Sept. 14.

September 19-20 -- Welcome Insure.com, Atlanta Constitution, Houston Chronicle, Money/CNNfn, About.com readers.  Plenty of press mentions lately for this site, its editor or both, including comments on the litigation likely to follow the Trade Center bombing (Vicki Lankarge, "Insurers and airlines face years of litigation over terrorist attacks", Insure.com, Sept. 13) and in particular the possibility that major airlines could be ruined by liability actions on behalf of victims on the ground (Nancy Fonti and Dave Hirschman, Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 18 -- quotes included in earlier but not current online version).  Earlier, we were selected as a weekly web pick by the Houston Chronicle: "It's written in nonlegal terms, so you'll be able to dive right in and understand what you're reading."  (Cay Dickson, "What's Online", Houston Chronicle, Sept. 10).  In another article published before the attack, this one for Money magazine, Amy Feldman quotes us on lawsuits by investors against brokers ("You screwed up? Sue!" (excerpt of longer article), Money/CNNfn, Sept. 10). 

We've also recently been linked to by several pages at Robert Longley's U.S. Government section of About.com, including the sections on Gun Control (nominating us as "excellent" and "Best of the Net") and Environment ("Do some environment laws go just a 'bit too far?' Overlawyered.com suggests they might and offers some fascinating reading to back this up.") 

September 19-20 -- Washington Post on airline liability.   The newspaper is properly skeptical about a generalized bailout of the airlines as such, but sees merit in the idea that they ought not to face near-infinite liability for the terrorists' actions.  "Congress should accept some liability costs, taking care that these are not costs already covered by private insurance.  It should also pass legislation to ensure that liability payments are held to a reasonable level and that trial lawyers do not pocket large chunks of the money." ("The Airline Bailout" (editorial), Washington Post, Sept. 18). 

September 19-20 -- Michigan tobacco fees.   The $450 million award "works out to an hourly rate of $22,500, based on claims by law firms in South Carolina and Mississippi that they spent 20,000 hours on the Michigan portion of the tobacco case," reports the Detroit Free Press's Dawson Bell.  Arbitrators conceded that lawyers had done only a "modest" amount of work specifically on behalf of the Wolverine State, but said their efforts on the litigation on a national level deserved kudos, besides which it had been a coup for them to have recruited then-Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley, considered influential among his fellow AGs.  Sure sounds to us like it's worth $450 million! ("Panel awards big pay in suit", Sept. 7; Yahoo/Reuters; William McQuillen, "Michigan Tobacco Lawyers Awarded $450 Mln From Accord", Bloomberg.com, Sept. 7). 

September 18 -- Settle a dispute today.   A story with a moral from Texas Lawyer: "With America under attack by terrorists, lawyers involved in the trial of a bitter, highly personal fee fight agreed the dispute was trivial in the wake of the horror and tragedy of the events of Sept. 11, and they resolved their disagreement."  The $105 million battle over division of fees from tobacco and other litigation had pitted celebrated plaintiffs' lawyer John O'Quinn against former associate Kendall Montgomery, who was represented by prominent attorneys Joseph Jamail and Ronald Krist; it had riveted the Houston legal community with a series of highly unflattering revelations about both sides.  Then came the blasts in New York and Washington, which helped put a lot of other things in perspective.  We hardly ever find ourselves writing favorably of Messrs. O'Quinn and Jamail, but here's hoping their example adds a new item to our national to-do list: 1) make a donation for NYC and Washington relief; 2) book some air travel; and 3) clear the decks of some old dispute that doesn't seem nearly as important as it used to.  (Brenda Sapino Jeffreys, "Crisis Catalyst for Settlement", Texas Lawyer, Sept. 17 and Houston Chronicle coverage typified by Bill Murphy, "Ex-partner covered for drunken O'Quinn, lawyer says", Sept. 6; "O'Quinn reneged on agreement, jurors told", Sept. 7). (DURABLE LINK)

September 18 -- More on asbestos in WTC.   Less and less seems clear about this subject, notwithstanding the reports we linked yesterday.  Here's Newsweek/MSNBC: "Reports have been conflicting about how much asbestos was installed in the twin towers, which were built between 1966 and 1973, or how much might have remained there at the time of the collapse. ... Guy F. Tozzoli, the physicist-engineer who headed overall development of the World Trade Center throughout its construction and remained there until 1987, says asbestos was only used in the first 39 floors of the Tower One, the first building struck Tuesday and the second one to fall. After that, other materials were used at an additional cost of over $400,000, he says. 'There was no asbestos used anywhere else in the buildings,' says Tozzoli, who currently is president of the World Trade Center Association." (David France and Erika Check, "Asbestos Alert", Newsweek/MSNBC, Sept. 14).  The reports linked yesterday from Steven Milloy and JunkScience.com, on the other hand, describe much more of the complex, including the lower 64 floors of Tower 2, as having been given asbestos insulation. 

How much of the original insulation was still there as of Sept. 11?  Yesterday's linked articles seemed to proceed from the premise that it remained in place.  But here's Newsweek/MSNBC again: "Subsequently, the asbestos was encapsulated in a honeycomb of plastic, and in the early '80s, after a 'fastidious, painstaking process,' it was entirely removed, he [Tozzoli] says. 'If they are finding asbestos in the ash, it is not coming from us.'"  The Port Authority, the buildings' owner, engaged in prolonged litigation with asbestos manufacturers and its own insurers seeking to shift to them $600 million in costs of asbestos abatement.  (British Asbestos Newsletter, Spring 1996, item #2; Mound, Cotton, Wollan & Greenglass, "What's New", "Cases").  Reader Maximo Blake writes to say: "To the best of my knowledge a majority of the asbestos coating the beams and elsewhere was removed in the 1980s. My information comes from a Port Authority employee who supervised the removal." Just to add a bit more complication, a web search reveals a relatively recent Sept. 12, 2000 entry from the Port Authority's Construction Advertisements Archive in which the authority solicits sealed bids for ongoing "Removal and Disposal of Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles and Other Incidental Asbestos-Containing Building Materials" at the WTC, with bids due October 17, 2000. 

Plus: Today's New York Times quotes specialists with a range of opinions on whether the change in materials might have made a difference.  (James Glanz and Andrew C. Revkin, "Did the Ban on Asbestos Lead to Loss of Life?", New York Times, Sept. 18 (reg)). 

September 18 -- "Civil liberties in wartime".   Just-started Slate dialogue between Stewart Baker (Steptoe & Johnson) and Eugene Volokh (UCLA School of Law, Center-Right) looks like it will be a good one, as we'd expect from these two (began Sept. 17). 

September 17 -- Renewed in alabaster.  Our friend (and frequent contributor to this site) John Steele Gordon, author of The Business of America, contributed this commentary on the afternoon of the blast to National Public Radio's Marketplace, still relevant today: 

"The beating heart of world capitalism will beat again, and soon. 

"The New York financial market -- a potent and emotional symbol of American power -- has been struck before.  In 1863 the draft riots, sparked by opposition to the Civil War, engulfed the city from downtown to its northern edge, then in the east forties. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died in the three days of looting, fire, and lynching. But as soon as order was restored -- by army regiments rushed in from Gettysburg -- the banks and the stock exchange reopened. Business went on. 

"In 1920, a deliberate attack on Wall Street itself resulted in an explosion in front of the Morgan Bank.  Hundreds of pounds of cut up iron chunks, intended as people killers, were hurled throughout the neighborhood, and awnings as high as twelve stories up burst into flame. Thirteen were killed and dozens injured.  Had the bomb exploded a few minutes later, when lunch-hour crowds would have thronged the corner of Wall and Broad, the death toll would have been in the hundreds.  But the next day, the Morgan bank, and the stock exchange across the street, were open for business, their shattered windows boarded up, their courage intact. 

"New York City is a tough place, both when it comes to dishing out misfortune and when it comes to absorbing it.  And no part of this city is tougher than its oldest part, where people have come for three hundred and fifty years to seek their fortunes.  Too many hearts have been broken there, and too many dreams fulfilled, to be more than momentarily shaken even by an outrage of the magnitude of this attack. 

"We New Yorkers will bury our dead -- however many they may be -- comfort our wounded, plan our revenge.  But most of all, New York will go on. 

"It will go on doing what New York does best, buying and selling, searching for opportunity, reaching for the stars. 

"Two thousand years ago, St. Paul said, 'I am a citizen of no mean city.'  On this terrible day, millions of New Yorkers know exactly what he meant." (DURABLE LINK)

September 17 -- How many lives would asbestos have saved?  Don't-miss column from FoxNews.com's Steven Milloy, associated with the Cato Institute and known for his JunkScience.com page: "Until 30 years ago, asbestos was added to flame-retardant sprays used to insulate steel building materials, particularly floor supports.  The insulation was intended to delay the steel from melting in the case of fire by up to four hours.  In the case of the World Trade Center, emergency plans called for this four-hour window to be used to evacuate the building while helicopters sprayed to put out the fire and evacuated persons from the roof. ... In 1971, New York City banned the use of asbestos in spray fireproofing.  At that time, asbestos insulating material had only been sprayed up to the 64th floor of the World Trade Center towers." [see addendum/correction below] Both planes struck higher floors, and the substitute material did not prove notably effective in preserving the steel, whose melting caused the towers to collapse 56 minutes in one case and 100 minutes in the other after fire broke out.  Moreover, Milloy argues, by the time of the WTC's construction, "wet-spraying" techniques of asbestos installation had been developed that made it possible to drastically lessen the danger to construction workers of breathing in harmful fibers during application.  The late Herbert Levine, "who invented spray fireproofing with wet asbestos ... frequently would say that 'if a fire breaks out above the 64th floor, that building will fall down.'" ("Asbestos Could Have Saved WTC Lives", Sept. 14). 

Addendum: reader Thomas Sanderson, mechanical and aerospace engineer, writes: "Given that I read your site every day because of the quality and common sense, I was deeply disappointed to find you referring this article without appearing to recognize the problems with its argument. 

"Fire insulations for buildings are designed to protect the structure against the heat from a fire fueled by the building's contents: paper, furniture, carpet, etc.  This is true of asbestos insulations and their replacements.  When you add several hundred thousand pounds of jet fuel you create a fire that is far hotter than anything the designers planned for.  In addition, the crash itself would have stripped most of the insulation from the steel columns, rendering the insulation useless no matter what material was used.  The collapse of the towers short of the 4 hour mark specified in the article was due to the size and heat of the fire being well outside the specifications of the insulation and building codes; there is no reason to believe that asbestos insulation would have performed any better than the insulation that was used and every reason to believe that asbestos would have failed in the same way. 

"By citing this column without pointing out its obvious flaws, you are encouraging the kind of unjustified lawsuits your site intends to stamp out." 

Further addendum: Milloy's JunkScience.com (first Sept. 15-16 item) adds the following correction/amplification in response to reader emails: "Apparently, One World Trade Center was completely insulated with asbestos.  But Two World Trade Center was insulated with asbestos only up to the 64th floor. One World Trade Center lasted almost 45 minutes longer than Two World Trade Center. It's possible -- no guarantees -- that more people might have gotten out of Two World Trade Center had it been fully asbestos-insulated.  Nothing would have prevented the buildings from collapsing eventually given the heat generated by the combustion of jet fuel." (& see Sept. 18: MSNBC quotes an authority who contradicts the above account and says the asbestos was removed in the 1980s) 

September 17 -- $3 million verdict for selling gun used in suicide.  Ryan Eslinger, 19, committed suicide with a gun he bought after lying on the application at Kmart to conceal his history of paranoid schizophrenia; the 17-year-old clerk, an acquaintance of his from high school, mistakenly accepted Eslinger's passport as adequate identification, which it isn't under federal gun laws.  Now a federal court jury in Utah has told the retailer to pay $1.5 million in compensatory and $1.5 million in punitive damages to Eslinger's family, saying it acted with "reckless indifference". (Patty Henetz, "Kmart Pays Punitives to Utah Family Over Shotgun Sold to Suicidal Teen", AP/Law.com, Sept. 17; "Kmart sued for wrongful death in suicide case", AP/Nando, Sept. 5). 

September 14-16-- "Why they hate us".  "It was a novel thing in 1776 to treat people as ends in themselves, not as the instrument of some higher purpose. In many places, it still is.  As a rule, Americans don't subordinate individuals to grand and noble causes -- we let them decide whether to subordinate themselves. ... Our deference to the pursuit of happiness exasperates critics who see it as frivolous and shallow.  They think life is meaningless and even wicked unless it is devoted to some cause greater than yourself."  Best column we've read lately on why premodern fanatics of every stripe and on every continent hate our society for its supposed decadence, materialism, and moral laxity.  (Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune/TownHall.com, Sept. 13). 

September 14-16 -- Security holes: to the North...  December 1999's interception of Ahmad Ressam as he crossed from British Columbia into the U.S. with bomb-making materials, and the apparent use of Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada as staging areas for this week's outrage, points to a persistent problem: "Canada, according to David Harris, former CSIS chief of strategic planning, is 'a big jihad aircraft carrier [terrorists use] for launching strikes against the U.S.'" While actual carrying out of terrorist schemes is against Canadian law, the country's authorities allow surprisingly wide scope for organizing and fundraising in support of such schemes.  ("With friends like us" (editorial), National Post, Sept. 13; Mark Steyn, "A very curious nation where Canada once was", National Post, Sept. 13; Tom Arnold (& files from Reuters), "U.S. to call for tighter security at borders", National Post, Sept. 13; Elizabeth Nickson, "Evil resides among us, in our hearts", Sept. 13; Paul J. Smith, "The Terrorists and Crime Bosses Behind the Fake Passport Trade", Jane's Intelligence Review, July 1; Mary Anastasia O'Grady, "Threat from the North", WSJ OpinionJournal.com, Sept. 14). 

September 14-16 -- ...and at home.  Often quite unfairly, organized Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans find their loyalty to this country put in question.  As the surest way of dispelling such imputations, "they should help in every way possible to smash the network within their own communities that provides money and shelter to terrorists.  It's the least they can do for their neighbors".  (Nolan Finley, "Arab-Americans can help cause by exposing terrorist sympathizers", Detroit News, Sept. 13; Tarek E. Masoud, "American Muslims Are Americans.  Let's Act Like It", WSJ OpinionJournal.com, Sept. 14). 

September 14-16-- What you knew was coming.  Lawyers "say they expect an avalanche of lawsuits against the airlines, the security companies the airlines hired to screen passengers at the airports and the government agencies that run the airports." (Joseph B. Treaster and David Cay Johnston, "Billions in Claims Expected, but Compensation Could Vary Widely", New York Times, Sept. 13; Robert Manor and Rick Popely, "U.S. airlines face trouble in aftermath of attack", Chicago Tribune, Sept. 13).  After the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, New York's Port Authority unsuccessfully sued companies that made fertilizer, one of the bomb's components (Aug. 23, 1999).  The Association of Trial Lawyers of America yesterday called for a "moratorium" of unspecified length on the filing of suits over this week's calamity (ATLA website, "A National Tragedy").  On lawsuits against the U.S. government over terrorism and their tendency to give the terrorists a second victory, see July 5, 1999 (Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings).  On the problematic nature of recently passed laws that permit victims of terrorism to sue responsible foreign states and then recover part of the resulting jury awards from U.S. taxpayers, see June 18, May 9; July 6, 2000

Today's Times reports that the two airlines whose planes were hijacked, American and United, are urging Congress to curtail suits against them by victims on the ground (as opposed to their own passengers and crew), a step that might be taken in conjunction with a federally legislated compensation scheme for victims in lieu of litigation; trial lawyers appear to be mobilizing to oppose such measures, even though a federal scheme of legislated compensation would be likely to get cash to survivors earlier and with more certainty than would lawsuits.  "Lawyers who specialize in representing plaintiffs said the airlines were the most likely targets for negligence and wrongful death suits for victims on the ground and in the air.  Potential payments could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, the lawyers said." For those new to this topic, this figure of "hundreds of millions" apparently represents not airlines' aggregate liability, but of what they could pay in individual cases where high-paid businesspersons perished (such payments by airlines to families having ranged well into the tens of millions of dollars in individual cases in the past).  Missing from the article is any plausible estimate of airlines' aggregate liability should lawyers succeed in getting them held responsible for ground losses (a theory which of course the courts may not accept).  Counting wrongful-death, injury,  property damage and business interruption claims, it seems unlikely that the totals would stop short of many tens of billions of dollars, a prospect likely at some point to exhaust the airlines' available insurance coverage and drive them into bankruptcy, with resulting destabilizing effects on the U.S. air transport system and economy (again, assuming courts go along, which they may not).  Today's Times coverage also cites "plaintiff's lawyers" as having spread word in recent days that insurance companies might be preparing to deny WTC claims by resorting to war exclusions in policy coverage, a report well calculated to alarm and anger policyholders and make them more likely to consider hiring lawyers, but for which the evidence so far appears remarkably scanty; every insurer spokesperson we've seen quoted has contradicted the report.  (Joseph B. Treaster, "Airlines Seek Restrictions on Lawsuits Over Attacks", New York Times, Sept. 14). 

September 13 -- Before going to war, declare war.   Formal declarations of war paradoxically help make the world a more civilized place, at least when compared with the alternative, the modern practice of waging war without declaring it: like other legal formalisms, they help put an end to self-serving guessing games among both combatants and third parties as to who owes obligations to whom.  "We should seriously consider a congressional declaration of war," writes columnist Charles Krauthammer.  "That convention seems quaint, unused since World War II.  But there are two virtues to declaring war: It announces our seriousness both to our people and to the enemy, and it gives us certain rights as belligerents (of blockade, for example)." ("To War, Not to Court", Washington Post, Sept. 12).  There are also various precedents Congress might consult for steps other than the conventional declaration of war against a named enemy state; among them are letters of marque and reprisal, employed in the early history of American navigation.  (Washington Post, letter to the editor from Wade Hinkle, Annandale, Va., Sept. 12; scroll to near bottom) (via Instapundit). 

September 13 -- Self-defense for flight crews.   Issuing them guns (employing ammunition of a type unlikely to pierce a metal fuselage) might be better than today's practice of mandating their defenselessness, and a whole lot more meaningful than (to name one newly announced step) forbidding airport shops to sell plastic dinner knives.  A less drastic approach "would be to give all flight crews tasers, pepper spray, and the training to use them.  This approach has the added benefit of dealing with 'air rage,' which is still far more common than hijacking, but the airlines would probably need some legislative protection from lawsuits to adopt the practice." (Virginia Postrel, Dynamist.com, Sept. 12; Dave Kopel, "Making the Air Safe for Terror", National Review Online, Sept. 16). 

September 13 -- Non-pregnant rescuers, please.  "The D.C. Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services is in all kinds of hot water for disqualifying its pregnant female applicants."  Would this be an okay time to agree that society, women included, has a compelling reason to want to hire the strongest, quickest, and hardiest prospects for jobs that may involve pulling victims from the rubble of disasters?  ("The law vs. common sense" (editorial), Washington Times, Sept. 10). 

September 13 -- Message to the killers.  "What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that you failed.  Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.  Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve.  Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together."  (Leonard Pitts Jr., "The barbarians will learn what America's all about", Miami Herald/Seattle Times, Sept. 12And: Mark Steyn, "West's moral failure at root of tragedy", National Post, Sept. 11; Dave Barry, "Just for being Americans ...", Miami Herald, Sept. 13; Jeff Jacoby, "Our enemies mean what they say", Boston Globe/Jewish World Review, Sept. 13; eyewitness account with pictures: The Fine Line blog, Sept. 12

September 12 -- "From the dust will come justice".  "[J]ustice may not be swift.  It is important, though, that it be sure. 

"For those who on Tuesday took a part of America's heart, there must be one uneasy assurance: Life is long.  We are not finished.  And it is they who must feel the terror." (Chicago Tribune (editorial), Sept. 11).  We also recommend the coverage on Virginia Postrel's and Glenn Reynolds' sites. 

September 12 -- Barbara Olson, 1955-2001.  The attorney, commentator, author, and wife of Solicitor General Ted Olson (and no relation to this site's editor) was on board American Airlines Flight 77 and used her cell phone to call her husband and relay details about the flight's hijacking.  A former prosecutor, Mrs. Olson rendered many services to this country, and it would be fitting if by this final act she helped assist law enforcement in the inquiries that lead to bringing the murderers to justice (John Solomon, "Barbara Olson, wife of U.S. solicitor general, dies in Pentagon attack", AP/Boston Globe, Sept. 11). 

September 12 -- Transsexual passenger's airline hassle.  We were preparing a light, jolly sort of item about the lawsuit charging United Air Lines with discrimination against transsexuals because they over-hassled Richard Ward/Sarah West at boarding time: "according to the lawsuit, Ward was told he wouldn't be able to fly until he looked more like his passport photo, which shows him as a man."  But we knew there was a serious point at the incident's core: airline personnel aren't just being spiteful when they insist that passengers match up fairly closely with their picture IDs.  Could we agree that this is a bad moment at which to assert a new civil right to board airliners in disguise? (WJLA, "Airline Orders Man to Change Out of Women's Clothing", Sept. 5; AirDisaster.com thread

September 12 -- Self-defense: an American tradition.  In his much-praised book ''Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture'', Emory University historian Michael A. Bellesiles delivered a novel thesis many reviewers were eager to hear: that America's identification of gun ownership with individual liberty is a recent invention, and that "gun ownership was exceptional in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth century, even on the frontier".  Now a front-page Boston Globe article backs up a growing furor over the book's methods and veracity.  (David Mehegan, "New doubts about gun historian", Boston Globe, Sept. 11; Melissa Seckora, National Review, Oct. 1; Dave Kopel and Clayton Cramer, "Check the Footnotes", National Review Online, Jan. 13-14). 

September 11 -- Soaring medical malpractice awards: now they tell us.  We couldn't have said it better than SmarterTimes did yesterday: "Unreformed on Tort Reform: An article on the front page of today's [i.e. Monday's] New York Times reports that jury awards in medical malpractice cases reached an average of $3.49 million in 1999, up from $1.95 million in 1993.  The article reports that in California, 'juries awarded more than $1 million in 39 malpractice lawsuits, up from 28 seven years earlier. ... The average award rose to $2.9 million, from $2 million.'  Well, the Times looks a bit silly, in retrospect, for that largely uncritical report in its national section on August 6, 2001, which ran under the headline, 'A Study's Verdict: Jury Awards Are Not Out of Control' and concluded with a quote from a law professor who asserted, 'The evidence is that juries are not out of control.'  That August article didn't mention any of these statistics about the increase in jury awards in malpractice cases.  Today's article, meanwhile, is flawed because it doesn't say how many of these large jury awards are reduced by judges on appeal." [on which, see our Sept. 7-9 entry: the National Law Journal finds that judges appearing to be leaving intact a larger share of big awards].  (Joseph B. Treaster, "Malpractice Rates Are Rising Sharply; Health Costs Follow," New York Times, Sept. 10 (reg); Yahoo version (no reg, but shorter shelf life).  Earlier Times report: William Glaberson (who else?), New York Times, Aug. 6 (fee-based archive), Googlecached at Seattle Post-Intelligencer site). 

Here's more, from the trade journal Business Insurance, on the looming crisis in med-mal insurance: "In response to losses on medical malpractice liability business, The St. Paul Cos. Inc. has raised rates and is walking away from some health care risks.  ... The St. Paul, Minn.- based insurer said it has raised its medical malpractice liability rates for large hospitals an average of 76% on policies that have renewed this year and has not renewed some policies.  Rate increases have become steeper in recent months, with the average renewal in July up 103% from last year's rate. ... because of the serious losses recorded by large hospitals, St. Paul plans to exit some geographic regions and not renew policies with certain hospitals, [company official Michael] Miller said."  ("Updates: Med Mal Rate Hikes", Business Insurance, Aug. 27, fee-based archive).  And a report from July 2 on the crisis facing nursing homes:  "In Florida, for example, nursing homes, would merely be swapping dollars for liability coverage, according to Mr. Henderson [Jim W. Henderson, vp-marketing division of insurance brokers Brown & Brown in Daytona Beach, Fla.].  'You can probably purchase insurance,' he said, 'but it would be almost dollar-for-dollar based upon exposure and premium.  You'll spend $3 million for $3 million worth of coverage.'  Buyers in Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania that can get nursing home liability coverage at increases of less than 200% to 300% will be lucky, Mr. Henderson said." (Michael Bradford and Lee Fletcher Rosenberg, "Brokers the bearers of bad pricing news", Business Insurance, July 2, fee-based archive). 

September 11 -- The view from Arsenictown.  In the controversy over arsenic levels in drinking water, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman does something remarkable: he actually checks out what residents think in one of the towns (San Ysidro, N.M.) meant to benefit from the tighter rules (Sept. 6; TownHall.com version) (& see Aug. 17-19, April 18). 

September 11 -- P.D. James on compensation culture.  Columnist George Will, in London, interviews mystery writer P.D. James: "She is mildly disdainful of what she calls 'the climate of compensation,' which Americans call the entitlement mentality of a therapeutic culture.  'People,' she says bemusedly, 'expect to be counseled if they suffer trauma.'  Recalling the soldiers returning from two wars, she says tartly, 'I don't remember them all coming home expecting to be counseled about what they went through.'" ("The edge of a moral sleuth", Washington Post, Sept. 9). 

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