Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Sanctimonious trial lawyers II

I was going to update the original here, but this rapidly became too long-winded (surprise). Mr. Weinstein replied here

First off, although I disagree with him on a number of things, let me note that my issue was with the self-congratulatory tone of Mr. Weinstein's blog. This of course is not personal, so it certainly doesn't justify the "No Watermelons Allowed doesn't like me much" intro. And to call a blog self-congratulatory is of course subjective and isn't exactly the most damning of accusations in any case.

And with constructs like "That might be true for him and some others" I deliberately left room for him to distance himself from the greedier end of his profession. Apparently he doesn't want the distance.

Apparently in response to my suggestion of a need for discipline, he did provide a link to the Tennessee Bar Association website. If you look around a little on the sidebar you'll find "Actions from the Board of Professional Responsibility" - apparently there's no direct link. At least one of them appeared to be a plaintiff's lawyer who was publicly censured for about the 4th time after letting some defendants off the hook without a fight (as I interpreted it - as I noted, I'm not a lawyer). He's still practicing. Hmm - why can't we plaster a big "Attorney General's Warning" on the creep so people can know that he might screw them over negligently or otherwise?

The old joke goes that if there's only one lawyer in town, he'll starve, but if there are two they'll both get rich. Lawyers are positioned to profit from conflicts - without strong, vigorously enforced ethics, they become the sowers of discord so wisely consigned by Dante to the lower circles of hell.

How can it be that insurance companies could be winning any sort of PR war? Some of the dirtiest money ever made has come from insurance. There's no question that insurance people are self-interested in trying to hold down the costs of medical care, malpractice judgments and others.

But the fact is that that insurors perform a vital function too. Arguably the ready availability of underwriting for various risks is one of the great advantages of our society, permitting people without wealth to leverage that of others to produce social goods. And it is this conditional access to the wealth of others that provides the payoffs for the plaintiff's bar - does Mr. Weinstein believe that juries and judges would permit large awards if they thought the money was coming directly out of their neighbors' pockets?

And just as we must discipline our children, someone has to say No, limiting the amount paid in claims, if only because it's the only way they can be sure they have the remaining capital needed to serve the claims of others. That would be an essential role even if no one ever filed fraudulent claims. Surely this role is entitled to generous compensation too.

And the task of the insurors is daunting and complex. Given that they employ thousands of human beings and deal with millions of customers, mistakes will be made. Unforeseen risks will arise, and the likelihood and severity of existing ones will change. The regulations that affect insurors vary from state to state, often arbitrarily and suddenly. Under such circumstances certainly errors will occur under the best of conditions without implying any systematic malfeasance, and occasionally a plaintiff's lawyer will have to assist in correcting them.

But I don't want to hear about insurance company profits, overcharging or other errors or excesses from somebody who bills and justifies $15K to the plaintiff's $18K share. If he doesn't like the risk of losing a case, then let him buy some insurance....

In short, the self-congratulatory tone and the unceasing propaganda against "Big Insurance" is over the top. Go ahead, drive insurors of business. The need that caused them to arise will still be there, so it will either go unmet or you'll get to deal with the tender mercies of the govt and its often arbitrary power.

I don't want that risk.

No comments: