The jury came back with a $6.5 million verdict in that case. It was one of 60 such cases Edwards handled during his career -- half of the verdicts were for more than $1 million. Trial lawyers usually pocket between 30 and 40 percent of jury awards. And though Edwards claimed that he was proud of his career, and that he gave "little guys" a shot, The New York Times quoted a fellow trial lawyer: "He took only those cases that were catastrophic, that would really capture a jury's imagination. He paints himself as a person who was serving the interests of the downtrodden, the widows and the little children. Actually, he was after the cases with the highest verdict potential."
It never troubled Edwards' sleep that studies have shown no connection between delivery-room decisions and cerebral palsy. A 1989 report from the Institute of Medicine argued that obstetricians were being falsely blamed. Lawsuits like those Edwards filed led to the widespread use of fetal monitors during hospital deliveries. The result has been a surge in the number of Caesarean deliveries, many of them unnecessary. This, in turn, has contributed to complications like infection, blood clots, longer recovery times, and more maternal deaths, to say nothing of the increased medical costs.
And here's a bitter postscript: Despite the increased use of fetal monitors and the much readier resort to C-sections, the incidence of cerebral palsy in the population has remained unchanged. In fact, a study in Sweden suggests C-sections may increase the incidence of cerebral palsy.
Additionally, thanks to Edwards and his colleagues, medical malpractice insurance rates for obstetricians have skyrocketed, leading many doctors to abandon the field. It is poor women, not the rich who can travel more easily, who suffer most from doctor shortages.
Mr. For The Little Guy adamantly opposed legislation that would have capped damage awards and set up a fund for the 99 percent of brain-damaged children who did not win big verdicts. There were "two Americas" all right -- those whose misfortune Edwards could profitably exploit, and the rest.
Between the 2004 and 2008 campaigns, Mr. FTLG joined Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund. While acknowledging that making money was "a good thing, too," Edwards stressed that he was primarily motivated by a desire to learn more about financial markets and their relationship to poverty. Where, oh where, was the press's gag meter?
Edwards seduced a cooperative press corps with ostentatious displays of affection for his stricken wife -- "the love of my life" -- including annual visits to the Wendy's where the couple supposedly passed their first anniversary.
Fall of a great man? How far can a worm fall?
To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com
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