By Melissa Higgins, ISBA Communications Director and Editor of The Iowa Lawyer, and Dwight Dinkla, ISBA Executive Director
We have received some comments about a “letter to the editor” published in the May issue of The Iowa Lawyer magazine that was written by Des Moines attorney James Benzoni, assisted by Dr. Thomas E. Benzoni, D.O (Emergency Room Doctor) and Judge Albert Habhab (former Chief Judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals). In response to these inquiries, The Iowa State Bar Association wants to reaffirm and clearly state that it has been the long-standing legislative policy of the ISBA to oppose arbitrary caps on recoveries and blanket immunities. This position was reaffirmed by the ISBA Board of Governors at its December 2019 meeting when governors voted in opposition to absolute immunity legislation and arbitrary caps on damages ahead of the 2020 legislative session.
We have consistently supported the rights of citizens to have redress for wrongs that have been committed and for injuries they have suffered through no fault of their own. We also support that damages should be determined by a jury based upon the individual facts of a case and not based on arbitrary caps. We are aware that there may be an attempt to seek caps on recoveries in medical malpractice cases and grant immunities for COVID-19-related injuries during the conclusion of this year’s legislative session. The ISBA will be opposing any such legislation based upon the long-standing principles and positions of the ISBA.
The rights of citizens and employees on the front line of providing services during this pandemic should not be diminished in any manner. It is our belief that in tort the standard of care adapts to a public health crisis. The conduct a jury or judge considers reasonable or negligent depends on circumstances. Thus, a health care professional or other provider is judged under the standard of care of what a reasonable professional would do during a pandemic. Plaintiffs’ attorneys exercise great caution when considering a case under any circumstance, but especially during a pandemic.
The publication of the Benzoni letter to the editor was not intended in any manner to diminish the ISBA’s long-standing positions. We point readers to the language that appears on page three of every issue of the publication indicating, “The statements and opinions in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Iowa State Bar Association.” Letters to the editor are clearly intended to reflect the personal views of the writer(s) and not the opinion of any bar leaders or the association itself. This letter is such an example. We have a diverse bar with thousands of members from all practice areas and all parts of the state, who represent many diverse opinions. We welcome thoughtful and productive discussions in the form of letters to the editor or rebuttals.
You can read the ISBA’s legislative position papers by clicking here.
You can learn more about how the ISBA reaches its legislative positions by clicking here.
You can learn more about the ISBA’s 2020 Affirmative Agenda by clicking here.