Justinian Lane

2011 Looking Like A Bad Year For Civil Justice

2011 is already shaping up to be a horrible year for the civil justice system.  The Republican takeover of many state legislatures means we’re going to see a slew of tort “reform” measures that limit the rights of injured citizens and pass on the cost of negligent corporations onto taxpayers.  This, from Wisconsin:

The far-reaching lawsuit reform proposal would make it more difficult for those bringing lawsuits to prove they were injured by a company's product and to collect damages. Walker said it would protect retailers from liability for defects caused by manufacturers and distributers.

It would also limit liability to products manufactured and sold within 25 years of an injury and make it easier for someone to be sanctioned for bringing a frivolous lawsuit.

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The Wisconsin Defense Counsel, which represents 450 defense attorneys, said passing the reforms would send a signal to the rest of the country that Wisconsin is serious about attracting new businesses and adding jobs. The Wisconsin Economic Development Association, which works to promote businesses in the state, also praised Walker's proposal.

Source: Walker's civil lawsuit reforms draw split reaction - Bloomberg

There are other proposals in other states.  And of course, the House of Representatives wants to repeal the healthcare act and replace it with laws that don’t let people sue negligent doctors.  Because for some reason, it’s important to keep inept doctors practicing medicine. 

The Tea Party movement could be a wild card.  Recall that Sarah Palin said she did not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to limit punitive damages in the Exxon Valdez case.  And the wording of the 7th Amendment is pretty clear in its declaration that injured citizens have a right to a jury trial.  So maybe the Tea Partiers won’t support laws that curtail our right to sue.  But I doubt it.

Let’s hope I’m wrong.

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Posted at 2:46 PM, Jan 10, 2011 in News
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