MONTGOMERY (AP) – When Alabama nursing homes run TV ads criticizing trial lawyers, they are casting a wide net that falls on Gov. Bob Riley’s son.
Rob Riley, a Birmingham attorney, is among the lawyers who have represented patients or their families in filing lawsuits against nursing homes.
Copies of the lawsuits have been distributed around the State house, where nursing homjes are trying to get lawmakers to pass legislation limiting jury verdicts for injuries and deaths to $250,000.
Rob Riley did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Gov. Riley’s press secretary, David Azbell, said the governor doesn’t appreciate his children being drawn into legislative battles.
“Bob Riley is the governor of Alabama and he signed on to be in the arena and be part of the debate. The governor’s children have been living their own lives,” Azbell said.
In Rob Riley’s nursing home litigation, he has worked with former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley’s Montgomery law firm. Beasley, who supported Bob Riley for governor, said his law firm began working with Rob Riley about two years ago.
“Rob and I have been doing business together long before his dad was elected governor,” Beasley said. “He’s a trial lawyer.”
Beasley, who heads one of Alabama’s most successful plaintiff law firms, said he was drawn to Rob Riley because of his reputation for being “a good lawyer”, particularly on lawsuits involving medical issues.
Both sides in the nursing home dispute have been blanketing TV with ads.
Plaintiff lawyers maintain the legislation would take away safeguards that protect nursing home patients. Nursing homes’ ads portray trial lawyers taking food from the elderly.
Mary Ann Holt, legislative director for the Alabama Nursing Home Association, said she knew Rob Riley was among the plaintiff lawyers who had sued a nursing home, but the association was not responsible for distributing copies of his lawsuits around the Statehouse.
She said the Nursing Home Association has discussed the legislation with the governor and found him receptive.
“We talked with Governor Riley and he stated he was a big supporter of tort reform in Congress,” she said.
Azbell said the governor has not yet taken a position on the nursing home bills. “We don’t commit to bills until we see the final version,” he said.
But, like Holt, Azbell said Riley’s record during six years in Congress showed his support for restrictions on lawsuits and big jury verdicts.
Nursing homes say they need limits on lawsuits to hold down skyrocketing insurance rates.