No Need For Safe Harbor In A Political Storm

Sometimes the frivolousness of lawsuits seems to echo the age old conundrum of which came first, the chicken or the egg. In many cases, if insurance is not involved and a hapless potential defendant has no assets, the likelihood of recovering nothing deters litigation. In most, every undertaking that involves a professional who renders an opinion, provides a service or sells something, premiums to buy an error omission insurance policy is an unquestioned part of their cost of doing business. Politicians, though, seem to be an exception to the rule.

Medical malpractice insurance may be the best known of this type insurance. Lawyers have been successfully suing doctors for medical mistakes for over sixty years. The annual premiums in some fields are well into six figures in some fields, such as obstetrics. So prolific is the concern in some quarters that tort reform has entered the debate over health insurance reform. Doctors are easy targets for the plaintiff’s bar as they are generally well off financially, most always carry insurance coverage and the injured party’s physical state would probably generate sympathetic feelings in a jury.

Other professions, of course, have need for error omission insurance. Architects, engineers, dentists and accountants carry this coverage as do officers and boards of director of large corporations, real estate salesmen and those who work in the financial services industry. Lawyers, of course, carry insurance, as they are certainly not immune from attack. There is coverage available for most every type of undertaking imaginable. However, nobody in the insurance industry seems to be in a hurry to provide shelter for political types.

A doctrine of immunity for elected officials for personal liability for acts carried out in performance of their duties usually keeps them out of court. In the case of local officials, the political body in question, whether a city, county or state, would be the pincushion taking the financial hit so there is no obvious need for financial backup. However, one must wonder what the result would be if an election winner were named a defendant in a lawsuit for statements or behavior that transpired during a campaign, before he or she became an elected official and donned the cloak of immunity.

Perhaps the insurance industry has considered an error omission insurance policy for budding politicians and decided against it as a sure fire money loser. Maybe there is a resignation in the public mind that campaigns are so replete with exaggeration and half truths that a bit of erroneous statement is to be expected, so why bother. However, given the uproar generated by some decisions that are made in Washington, D. C., the need by our elected leaders to carry insurance might bode well for the body politic, except, of course, for an up tick in frivolous lawsuits.



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