Legislatures across the country are working to enact civil justice reforms to improve their business climates, attract investment and encourage job creation. A round-up:
Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee included a package of reforms in his legislative recommendations, calling for a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages, such as pain and emotional suffering, and limiting punitive damages to $500,00. The bill also discourages venue shopping.
The bill (SB1522) was heard in committee on Wednesday, and the media predictably highlighted the comments of former Sen. Fred Thompson, hired by the trial lawyers to lobby against the bill. A new business group, Tennesseans for Economic Growth, has formed to promote the reforms. From its release:
“Our current civil justice system in Tennessee is seriously flawed because it threatens current business owners and jobs creators with unlimited exposure to litigation,” said Doug Buttrey, who has been named Executive Director of TEG. “This flaw in our civil justice system also puts Tennessee at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new businesses and jobs, especially since our state is one of the few in the Southeast which has yet to rein in lawsuit abuse through tort reform.”
“Tennesseans for Economic Growth believes it is critical that every citizen has access to the civil courts and that medical expenses be fully compensated. It is equally critical that damage awards do not spin out of control and become beyond reason,” Buttrey continued.
Doctors are also advocates for the reforms.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made tort reform the keystone of his early legislative efforts, winning passage of a package of civil justice improvements during the special session. (Shopfloor, Jan. 28, “Gov. Walker Signs Tort Reform Package in Wisconsin.” However, union groups have turned the April 5th Supreme Court race into a referendum on Gov. Walker’s collective bargaining reforms, and the trial lawyers are joining in the hopes their hand-picked candidate will overturn the tort reform law from the bench. (See our Point of Law post, “Wisconsin Supreme Court election: a referendum on tort reform, too.“)
In Oklahoma, long-frustrated reforms now appear headed for passage in the Legislature and signing into law by new Gov. Mary Fallin. Last week, the major measure, passed the House by a vote of 57-40, the State Chamber of Oklahoma reports: (continue reading…)