In the Laboratories of Democracy, Tort Reform

Quin Hillyer at the Examiner/D.C. looks outside the Beltway and finds tort reform an issue motivating legislatures and governors concerned with justice and economic growth. From “Class-action lawsuit reform progresses in states“:

While lawmakers in the nation’s capital do back flips kowtowing to plaintiffs’ lawyers who heavily finance their campaigns, individual states continue to move in the opposite direction to rein in lawsuit abuse by the plaintiffs’ bar.

States repeatedly have found that reasonable limits on lawsuits help boost their economies and/or health-care systems, whereas unfettered jackpot justice is seriously detrimental.

Hillyer identifies Hawaii, Georgia, Oregon and Wyoming as states where the action is, with Hawaii and Wyoming being especially concerned about medical malpractice laws. We’d add Oklahoma to the list, as well, where Sen. Glenn Coffee, president pro tem of the state Senate, has made tort reform a priority. Gov. Brad Henry, who campaigned in support of civil justice reform, vetoed a business-supported measure last year, but the political tides are moving against him.

Gov. Sonny Perdue’s efforts in Georgia are particularly interesting, as he attempts to introduce “loser pays” into the early stages of litigation, making the filers of the most obvious of frivolous lawsuits pay the consequences if they lose.

The point of these efforts is not to stick it to the little guy, but to rein in the excesses that reward special interests — trial lawyers — while punishing doctors and entrepreneurs and taxpayers. As Hillyer points out, tort reform has succeeded in Mississippi and Alabama in keeping doctors in the state and fostering a positive economic climate.

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