Woman to Lead Trial Lawyers

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by Maria Garriga
New Haven Register

July 16, 2003

Kathleen Nastri of Cheshire has made a legal career out of defending personal injury victims.

Now she will try to defend their right to win unlimited damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Nastri, elected in June as the first woman president of the board of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association in Hartford, has taken on her new role at a critical juncture.

The state legislature is considering 16 separate bills designed to deal with the skyrocketing costs of medical malpractice insurance.

Now Nastri will be the face of 1,500 attorneys in the association, arguing their case before the public and politicians.

"Kathleen is one of the best spokespeople this organization has," said Neil Ferstand, the association’s executive director.

Nastri said the public doesn’t realize that the multimillion-dollar payouts juries award often go toward paying for lifetime care for a person who must be hospitalized or who may never be able to work again.

While the proposed reforms would allow for some restitution of lost economic value, such as the amount the victim would have earned over a lifetime, it does not protect a victim who was a housewife, Nastri said.

Nastri recently joined the Bridgeport firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder as a partner focused on medical malpractice. The Koskoff team met Nastri in court during her 16-year career with Carmody & Torrance in Waterbury.

Michael Koskoff, whose father founded the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association in 1954, said he was impressed by Nastri’s sincerity. "When she is talking, she is talking from the heart — and she’s got the data to back it up," Koskoff said.

He said Nastri’s genuine concern for victims of medical malpractice will help her in the lobbying battle ahead.

"It’s a considerable battle. The forces arrayed against the rights of the individual are quite powerful," he said.

The coalition lobbying to limit medical malpractice damages includes insurance companies, the American Medical Association and local chambers of commerce.

Many doctors say sky-high premiums will hurt their businesses, and in some cases put them out of business.

Nastri argues that insurance companies brought on the soaring premiums by insuring all doctors rather than screening out doctors with histories of malpractice.

"All neurosurgeons pay the same, so if you are a good surgeon or a bad surgeon, you pay the same," she said.

Nastri said the state Department of Insurance should regulate malpractice insurance rates.

Nastri speaks about medical malpractice with a passion developed through hours spent with victims and their families. She recently represented the families of several babies injured at birth.

"It’s difficult, having four perfect, healthy children of my own," she said. Nastri has four daughters, ages 3 to 13.

Nastri said she isn’t sure why the 49-year-old association has never had a female president. "It’s about time, isn’t it?" she said.

Maria Garriga can be reached at mgarriga@nhregister.com or 789-5685