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July 19, 2005

U.S. Chamber Criticizes Medical Screening

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The United States Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today criticized the “assembly line” process used by some plaintiffs’ attorneys to screen plaintiffs for massive lawsuits targeting U.S. businesses, and introduced a host of legislative options to help clean up the system.

“The more we learn about the screenings used to mass produce plaintiffs in asbestos, silica, pharmaceutical and other litigation, the more apparent it becomes that changes must be made,” said Lisa Rickard, ILR president. “While a significant amount of damage has already been done – 73 companies have gone bankrupt as a result of asbestos litigation alone – there is still time to reform the system while ensuring that those who deserve compensation receive it.”

The revelations of questionable screening practices and diagnoses used to fuel mass tort claims were brought to light at the ILR event Diagnosing for Dollars: The Engine Driving Mass Torts Litigation. Experts discussed how plaintiffs’ attorneys, working with a handful of doctors and screening companies, have created a business model for manufacturing mass tort plaintiffs. This model was perfected in asbestos litigation and is now being exported to other litigation arenas such as silica, welding rods, and pharmaceuticals. “The result is an explosion of lawsuits without merit that are crippling companies, hurting the economy and threatening American jobs,” Rickard concluded.

ILR announced the creation of a medical database to help detect fraudulent screening practices and analyze the relationship between lawyers, doctors and screeners involved in these cases. ILR also released a paper exploring possible legislative solutions to clean up the screening process such as: legislation at the federal or state level that would require proof of the existence of a doctor-patient relationship; a medical indication that a test is needed before it is prescribed; and diagnoses that state the disease is caused by exposure to the product in question and rule out alternative causes. Creation of uniform diagnostic procedures for medical and legal personnel involved in screening was also proposed as a possible solution.

ILR’s mission is to make America’s legal system simpler, fairer, and faster for everyone. It seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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