Iowans filed fewer lawsuits last year, according to new figures released by the state judicial department. That’s prompted renewed debate over the need for tort reform in Iowa. A report to be released next month shows there were 22-thousand fewer cases filed in Iowa courts in 2003…making it the lowest level in a decade. The president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, Bruce Braley , says he’s not surprised by the numbers, but bets the public will be.There’s a widespread misconception that we’re a litigious society, he says, and we sue less than we used to though until computers there wasn’t the hard data to prove it. He says now the data prove there are fewer and fewer cases being filed each year. Braley also points to the downward trend in personal-injury and medical negligence claims. He says there were only 245 medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the entire state last year. Braley says that’s why there’s no need to cap pain and suffering awards in those cases.He says there’s no reason to tinker with a system that’s not broken. But the speaker of the Iowa house says the number of lawsuits isn’t the problem. Sioux City republican Christopher Rants says it’s excessive jury awards that drives up insurance rates for doctors. Rants says medical-malpractice insurance rates are driven by the fact that “the sky’s the limit,” and though the number of suits is going down it doesn’t mean some doctor couldn’t be “socked for multi-millions of dollars.” This spring the republican-controlled legislature voted to cap pain and suffering awards at 250-thousand dollars, but governor Vilsack vetoed the bill. Speaker Rants says that means doctors in Iowa will continue to leave practice because of skyrocketing insurance rates