Patrick's Reviews > The Rainmaker

The Rainmaker by John Grisham
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Mar 11, 10

Read from March 07 to 11, 2010

The book tells of a down-on-his-luck law student who stumbles on an interesting non-payment of insurance case while doing pro-bono work for a retirement home. The case involves a lower-middle class couple who bought health insurance for a low premium when suddenly their child gets acute leukemia. The insurance company subsequently refuses to pay because they claim the child had a pre-existing condition that was totally unrelated to leukemia.

I enjoyed this book tremendously not only because the good guys win in the end against the unethical and illegal bad guys but also for the fact that the good guys got the justice they deserved. And the good guys were happy with this justice. In the ideal world, this is what the law should be about namely, JUSTICE.

This book screams for health care reform especially getting rid of the pre-existing condition and rescissions (people who were loyal to the insurance and paid their premiums on time but the claim was not honored). The book introduces to the reader the idea of post-claim underwriting, the practice of insurance companies have in finding a loop-hole in their responsibility for a claim based on non-disclosure of an illness that maybe totally unrelated to the current illness and the resulting effect of rescissions. Because of this unrelated illness, the insurance company can rescind the policy. In the book, Great Benefits insurance company based its denial of claims due to the fact the family forgot to add the flu as one of the illness that Donny Ray had. But, the truly unfortunate thing is this loop-hole allowed them the pretense of not paying the claim and thus condemning Donny Ray to death. More than anything this comprehensive health care reform seeks to end practices of insurance companies of pre-existing conditions and rescissions and finally insure all the uninsured.

It also showcases the need for consumer protection from shady insurance companies by having some sort of agreed upon minimum standard of care in their policy. The consumer protection by the law against insurance companies are necessary because in the book Great Benefit insurance sells cheap policies to poor UNEDUCATED people and are counting that if they have a claim that they won't fight back if the insurance company does not pay the claim because they are poor and UNEDUCATED. This book also underscores that American medical establishment is the best in the world as long as you can afford access to it.

Another component of the reform is regulation. I really have my doubts about government regulation and insurance companies because as in the book sometimes they are in cahoots. The insurance company gets the premium rates raise that they want while government gets the PR victory for "moderating" insurance premium rates. If they really want to decrease the rate increases of insurance companies, it would be via the threat of the government option. Insurance companies do not want the government option because they know they really cannot raise their premiums if there is a government option even if the government option plays by market rules. I think the government option should be the nuclear option to control increases in premium rates if the current legislation does not do the job.

Reading this book, I realize that trial lawyers are really entrepreneurial in their thinking so how can Republicans who espouse the virtue of free enterprise and cap something that is entrepreneurial at its core. I think the answer to this is that the justice system should primarily be about justice just like health care should primarily be about a person's health not about business. Without comprehensive health care reform which emphasize health in health care system, I seriously cannot think of capping the trial lawyers awards. Besides without comprehensive health care reform, the trial lawyers are for better or worse the last defense for people who are wronged by insurance companies.

The only way to get the industry to notice that they have wronged a client is either through government action or through their checkbook by being sued by trial lawyers. Bottom line, I think people should be more consistent about their political principles. If one thinks that free market should go unfettered then this should include the entrepreneurial inklings of trial lawyers without tort reform but if one thinks free market should be used to better humanity then there should be a system that encourages that. If health care once again be primarily about health care, then I can rule that justice system should primarily be about justice and thus tort reform should occur.

Like I said, the goal of the justice system should be about justice. On the one hand, this means tort-reform so trial lawyers cannot use court cases as entrepreneurial ventures but instead focus on the justice part of it. On the other hand, the goal of justice should be to force the guilty defendant to change their ways. If the defendant is a big corporation, there is two ways of doing that: 1) Through enacting a law that punishes such behavior 2) Through their pocketbook where it hurts. Thus if there is no comprehensive reform that bans the legal but abhorrent practice rescissions (people pay their premiums but the insurance company has a loop-hole of dumping them because they forgot to declare some unrelated illness), the only justice this people have is to change the companies abhorrent behavior through suing them and either hit them hard in their pocket books or public admittance of guilt which will eventually hit their bottom line because of the bad publicity that it will cause. The book beautifully highlights this debate in the lawyers closing arguments. Whereas Rudy is asking for 10% of their cash reserves so the company bottom line hurts, Drummond beautifully points out that the son is dead and no amount of money will bring him back and so the company is willing to pay actual damages but the punitive damages should not be too much (ie: trial lawyer greed check vs finding justice to a powerful company through heavy punitive damages).

Having said that trial lawyers are entrepreneurial, I also can see how people can claim that they are scavengers because they seem to want something bad to happen so they can enlist the aggrieved party and sue the pants off the defendants.

In the book, judges seem to be biased towards or against the insurance company. I hope this is not the case in real life where the judges should be impartial towards the law. The Rudy character gets a great break for having the judge on his side but in the end the scales are balanced because the jury is the one who will decide if the defendant is guilty or innocent and the defendant has a top defense team that has years of trial experience between the 5 lawyers that represents the defense whereas this is Rudy's first trial experience.

I love how the book ended with the unethical and illegal corporation going bankrupt and the company not only looking at numerous civil suits but also criminal suits as well. The clients are ecstatic with this news because in the end it was not about the money anyway.
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