imageIn case you hadn't heard, diabetes drug Avandia is coming under fire for maybe causing heart attacks, maybe. About 83,000, by the government's estimate. It's kind of a big deal, if you think 83,000 people having heart attacks they shouldn't have had matters. Of course, giant slalom is on, so there are other things happening in this world.

Hugh Hewitt, however, laments the real victim here: GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Avandia. You see, people are probably going to sue this company that made this precious heart-disrupting drug, and that creates problems.

If you or a family member has been taking Avandia and suffered a heart attack, this is more than sufficient cause on which to bring a lawsuit for damages. If death resulted for the loved one, a wrongful death suit will follow.

This is not the problem with our tort system. People who are seriously injured ought to be able to quickly recover their losses.

That's so nice!

The problems with our system --problems left completely unaddressed by Obamacare-- are the roulette-like aspects of our tort law, under which thousands of plaintiffs' lawyers are already racing to attract any and all claims from anyone who thinks they may have taken Avandia and thinks their particular problem is related to it. There are no barriers to entry to the courts other than the willingness of some lawyer somewhere being willing to roll the dice on a contingency basis.

Man, if only there were some sort of rules relating to civil lawsuits that allowed judges to dismiss suits quickly and with prejudice and to severely sanction lawyers who bring frivolous lawsuits. Unfortunately, such things are just flights of fancy, like rocket cars or black Congressional Republicans.

Nor are there many limits on certain types of damages that are subject to wild swings in the eyes of a jury, including punitive damages. Everything depends upon the jurisdiction in which the case is brought.

Again, if only there were ways that judges could alter or vacate excessive awards in civil cases. Sigh. I guess I'll just have to dream of shooting my Ford Jet Blaster across Texas with Rep. Tyrone Johnson (R-Anywhere, Really).

Again, advocates of tort reform do not argue that the injured should not be compensated. They should be and the courts can be made to work fairly in such settings as mass tort. But right now they do not do so, or at least not very often.

Actually, the court system works incredibly well in cases of mass tort (and the bar to class action suits in particular has gotten progressively higher over the past couple of decades). It's not even really an argument - the main reason that the tort system in this country works the way it does is because we have weak regulation and a bad healthcare system. The best tort reform would be universal healthcare; subsidizing the cost of healthcare would drastically reduce the financial liability of companies that commit torts. Of course, that makes sense, so it's better to not do it and instead just ensure that we toss valid cases out of the court system.

While this legal avalanche begins to slide and then pick up velocity, the pharmaceutical industry will be watching another disaster to its bottom line take shape, with all the consequent side effects on current and future research and development. Costs of all drugs will have to rise to cover the costs associated with all Avandia claims, good and bad. Diabetics will still want relief so the demand won't slacken for the medicines that will help. Their costs will simply rise. Every dollar paid to victims,non-victims, and the lawyers for both as well as defense counsel will get passed right back to the consumer.

As the hard left edge of the Senate Democrats debate making a run at single payor, ask yourself exactly what that will do to prevent the costs described above from rolling through the system. The answer is nothing.

The crux of the argument here is that the 83,000 greedy victims need to keep their expectations in check (or, preferably, not file claims), because they're killing more people. The optimal system, apparently, is to let drug companies make drugs that injure tens of thousands of people, hope they're very, very nice about giving those victims whatever the drug company can afford, and be very happy that you have that great pill for your back pain that also makes you cough up blood. It's the cost of health, friends.

Compensating people for the harm they've suffered is perfectly fine, unless it costs money. At that point, all bets are off.