February 20, 2010
John Edwards, Mesothelioma Man, and Health Care ReformBy Ralph Alter
It has been fairly well-demonstrated that John Edwards is a pretty-boy philanderer married to a condescending harridan willing to go to any lengths to acquire stationery with the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue imprint. But what do we know about the bag-man behind the elaborate cover-up scheme designed to keep the sleeping bloodhounds of the Beltway media at bay?
The really big bucks came from a Texas attorney from the firm that brainstormed the massive Mesothelioma-chasing scam that continues to ravage the insurance and medical communities, not to mention every manufacturer who ever dealt with asbestos in any fashion. You have certainly seen the commercials trolling for new "victims" of asbestos exposure: the evening newscasts on nearly every channel are filled with them. This is because the payoffs for liability lawsuits are astronomical.
The Texas attorney who enabled the John Edwards campaign to effectively suppress the news about his dalliance with new-age purported videographer Rielle Hunter made his fortune by aggressively soliciting, and effectively settling, mesothelioma-liability lawsuits.
Fred Baron (1947-2008) built an enormous fortune by plying the vulnerable U.S. legal system and seeking financial jackpots for the alleged victims of asbestos exposure and the inferred development of mesothelioma. In so doing, Baron and his firm, Baron and Budd, P.C. of Dallas, developed a blueprint for plundering the medical, insurance, and corporate industries that has been replicated by thousands of attorneys, in hundreds of thousands of cases, resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars in settlements.
Baron's unethical tactics enabled attorneys like John Edwards to become multimillionaires by following the controversial "Baron and Budd script memo" in thousands of cases across the spectrum of potential medical liability.
Lester Brickman conducted a brilliant empirical analysis of attorney-sponsored asbestos screenings and concluded that
I will paraphrase the strategy developed by Baron and his pals, as revealed by Brickman. That strategy includes:
1) Trolling for clients and then having them screened at local union halls, motels, and shopping center parking lots.
2) Asserting claims regardless of the underlying medical conditions.
3) Gaming the civil justice system to dispense with "evidentiary requirements and proof of proximate cause."
4) Forum-shopping for jurisdictions friendly to the plaintiff attorneys.
5) Developing a coterie of cooperative physicians, x-ray readers, and clinics willing to implement tests and interpret data in a manner favorable to plaintiffs.
6) Following the Baron-Budd memo for plaintiff testimony to suborn alleged victims
This scandalous rigging of the justice system is at the heart of the health care problem in the United States. It's not the doctors who are the problem; it's the lawyers. Over 100,000 mesothelioma suits were filed in 2003 alone. Ambulance-chasing attorneys collude with jackpot-seeking perennial victims in looking for the judges elevated from attorney status to issue their munificent blessing and ravage the insurance-carriers.
Fred Baron and his slimy cohorts then turn around and invest their ill-gotten gains by purchasing Democrat politicians to insure that their rigged game can continue unimpeded by legislative or executive action. The unrepentant Baron understood the power the trial lawyers hold over the Democrats:
Unless and until we move to enact legislative reform circumscribing the unethical behavior of tort lawyers, we are doomed to a health care system crippled by outlandish malpractice insurance premiums. Allowing unscrupulous lawyers to enrich themselves by gaming the legal system forces the medical community to practice defensive medicine and actively disincentivizes potential M.D.s from going into practice.
John Edwards is perhaps the finest example possible to demonstrate the problems of current tort law. Edwards, together with his deceased enabler, Fred Baron, made massive fortunes by fooling the American justice system and the American people. Their attempt to suppress the slimy evidence of Edwards' true character by paying hush money and perhaps practicing sleight-of-accounting with Edwards' campaign accounts was made possible by their belief that the American legal system would let them get away with just about anything.
Now Baron is dead, and the political career of John Edwards is just as cadaverous. If the conservative movement demands serious tort reform, then we can break the stranglehold the jackpot liability solicitors have on the American legal and medical systems and find our way to a more affordable health care system.
Ralph Alter blogs at Right on Target www.rightot.blogspot.com