The short version is that I think tort reform is a sham cooked up by the insurance industry that unfairly makes a pariah of lawyers and ignores the role of doctors. For a taste of what I'm talking about, here is a blurb from a recent post by Ezra Klein about how a 19-item checklist drastically reduced surgical error:
19 questions -- questions as simple as whether the patient's identity confirmed been confirmed and his surgery site marked -- dropped the death rate by 40 percent and the complication rate by a third. That means not only that more people lived, but there was less need for follow-up care, for rehabilitation, for corrective surgeries. It's possible that some of that improvement came because the surgery teams knew they were being studied but that simply underscores the point: More attentiveness means fewer deaths.
Klein is focused on the cost of providing health care, but it is easy to take the research and see how focusing only on trial lawyers and victims of malpractice misses the larger picture. Of course there are opportunistic lawyers, but there are also plenty of crummy doctors who repeatedly screw up. We don't focus on an industry where 24 hour shifts are the norm, and where the use of a simple checklist drastically reduces the number of deaths and serious screw-ups. Tort reform isn't about improving health care, it is about protecting the insurance industry.
Full disclosure: A family member is a trial lawyer, and I was working at the State Senate when the first round of tort reform went through in 2005. I am biased.