Senator Trent Lott on Tort Reform: "Justice" for Him, "Frivolous" for You

“The Democrats seem to think that the answer is a lawsuit. Sue everybody.” – Sen. Trent Lott, 7/20/01 “I’m among many Mississippi citizens who believe tort reform is needed.” – Sen. Trent Lott, 5/8/02 “You know, obviously we should [enact tort reform]…Someday it will happen, and the sooner the better.” – Sen. Trent Lott, 1/24/01 ” Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi today credited the agenda of tax cuts, deregulation and tort reform initiatives passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Bush with the overall upturn in the national economy.” – Sen. Trent Lott press release, 12/2/05 “If their answer to everything is more lawsuits, then yes, that’s a problem, because I certainly don’t support that.” – Sen. Trent Lott, 8/2/02 “It’s sue, sue, sue… That’s not the answer.” – Sen. Trent Lott, 8/4/01

These quotes were all compiled by a group called the Center for Justice and Democracy, and they all very obviously reflect Senator Trent Lott’s stance on tort reform. For most of his time in the Senate, Senator Lott held the opinion that lawsuits against insurers, manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies were bad for business.

We’re curious to hear what his official opinion on the matter is lately.

Senator Lott found out how insurance companies treat their customers the hard way. When his $400,000 beach house in Mississippi was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina, he presented his claim to State Farm. When State Farm denied the claim, Senator Lott decided that “…sue, sue, sue” in fact WAS the answer.

In an article in the New York Times, the Senator says that he was shocked by State Farm’s “insensitivity and outright meanness” in the rejection of so many claims. He also found that the insurance contracts that he signed were loaded with what he called “a bunch of subterfuges,” which made the contracts difficult for lawyers (or apparently Senators) to understand. He then filed a lawsuit against State Farm.

To Mr. Lott we can only say, “Welcome to the real world.”

While we certainly don’t find any joy in Mr. Lott’s predicament, we do hope that this first hand experience with how insurance companies treat their customers will help him re-think his positions. Much of the tort-reform legislation that he supports is full of suggestions from the very insurance company that denied his claim. The insurance industry also denied the claims of thousands of Americans after Katrina, and they deny claims as a matter of course after a car accident, or a house fire, or any event in which they are expected to actually live up to their financial obligations. All tort reform legislation does it make it even easier for insurers to do what they already do, which is deny, stall, and offer settlements that are worth only fractions of what would be right or necessary.

We hope Mr. Lott is successful in his lawsuit. We hope that he gets full value for his damaged house. And most importantly, we hope he remembers that most of us AREN’T Senators, and don’t carry the weight of that position into our lives. When WE get our claims denied by insurance companies, filing lawsuits turns out to be our only choice. Legislation that makes it harder to do that won’t help us at all, but it would certainly help the same people that told Mr. Lott to read the fine print when he asked them to deliver on their promises.