Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Rainmaker by John Grisham

I took a little over a year off from John Grisham (Skipping Grisham?). No reason, in fact, The Chamber--last book of his that I read--was really quite good, and I had heard that The Rainmaker was good as well. I believe that it is Brent's favorite Grisham novel. So I was happy to come back to him (Grisham...not Brent).

I started reading this during the height of the health care "debate." You know: screaming about death panels; calling Obama a communist, fascist, baby-killing, euthanizer, and incorrectly stating that we have the best healthcare system in the world...and that was all just on Sarah Palin's Facebook page. I was surprised to see that the problems with our current healthcare system have were pretty much exactly the same back in 1995, when The Rainmaker was published.

The story is told from the perspective of Rudy Baylor, a law student on the verge of graduating and in desperate search of employment. He is managing only two clients, one of which is the older woman from whom he rents. She is trying to get her estate in order, largely at the behest of her greedy children. Rudy's other client is the Black family. Their adult son, Donnie Ray, was diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Medical intervention could have spared his life, but the Great Benefit Insurance Company denied their claim, preventing Donny Ray from getting a life-saving bone marrow transplant. Rudy and the Blacks decide to take Great Benefit to court and make public what they did.

What really comes across when reading this book is Grisham's disdain for insurance companies. Here is part of an exchange between Rudy and another lawyer regarding the way Great Benefit makes money:

"How many policies are out there?"
"Just under a hundred thousand. If you figure a claim rate of ten percent, that's ten thousand claims a year, about the average for the industry. Let's say they deny, just for the hell of it, half of the claims. Down to five thousand. The average claim is ten thousand dollars. Five thousand times ten thousand is fifty million bucks. And let's say they spend ten million, just a figure from the air, to settle the few lawsuits that pop up. They clear forty million with their little plot, then maybe the next year they start paying the legitimate claims again. Skip a year, go back to the denial routine. Cook up another scheme. They make so damned much money they can afford to screw anybody."

Grisham hinted at this with his Jake Brigance character in A Time to Kill, but it is nowhere close to the utter contempt he shows with The Rainmaker.

While this book is fiction, the story at is core is about as real as it can get. There is something horribly wrong about people making money off of people's illnesses, diseases, or lack thereof. It is worth noting that the dedication of this book reads "To American trial lawyers" not "To tort reform."

1 comment:

Brent Waggoner said...

The King of Torts is kind of Grisham's other side of the story, but it's not nearly as good as The Rainmaker. I don't think any of his other stuff except maybe The Chamber is as good character and plot-wise.