“Lawsuit Abuse Week” Threatens Injured Plaintiffs’ Right to Sue
Business-friendly special interests love to talk about “lawsuit abuse” taking a toll on the courts and on the American economy. It’s their way of trying to sway public opinion against injured parties who seek a remedy in court for the harm a large corporation has caused them and which could potentially harm many others. However, far from being abusive, these lawsuits produce a great deal of good: injured parties are compensated, negligent wrongdoers are punished, potential wrongdoers are put on notice, and changes occur that make circumstances safer for everyone. Still, advocates for big business, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, promote the notion of lawsuit abuse, and this year, with a business-friendly Congress, they’ve brought their show to the nation’s capital, with what they are calling “Lawsuit Abuse Week.”
Lawsuit Abuse Week is little more than political theater, but it could, unfortunately, bring down the curtain on citizens’ rights to sue for injuries. Individual plaintiffs already have a steep hill to climb when suing large corporations and insurance companies. But now, big business advocates are rolling out a number of “tort reform” measures that would further disadvantage injured parties. These include:
- H.R. 720: The so-called Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act makes major revisions to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including mandatory sanctions for frivolous claims and defenses. This tactic was already tried in 1983 but rescinded ten years later when it proved unworkable and introduced too many unintended negative consequences.
- H.R. 725: Labeled the Innocent Party Protection Act, this law would make it much easier for a defendant to move a lawsuit from a plaintiff-friendly state court to a business-friendly federal court.
- H.R. 732: The Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act would hamper federal law enforcement officials by disallowing payments other than restitution to third parties who provide information necessary to the prosecution of the lawsuit and advance programs that assist with recovery, benefits, and relief for communities harmed by lawbreakers.
- H.R. 906: Relying on the unfounded assertion that fraudulent claims against asbestos compensation trusts have depleted the pool for victims of bankrupt companies, lawmakers have advanced the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act, an invasive piece of legislation that would make it more difficult for asbestos victims to recover for their losses.
- H.R. 985: Another bill drafted to solve an imaginary problem, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act would make it harder for injured individuals to band together by narrowing the criteria to form a class action and complicating the process for collecting attorneys’ fees. This would discourage attorneys from taking on class action by making the cases riskier, leaving those who have been harmed by corporate abuse, mass torts, and toxic torts with no recourse.
- H.R. 2125: Perhaps the most shocking attempt to eliminate plaintiffs’ rights is the Protecting Access to Care Act. This bill stems from the flawed premise that healthcare in America is suffering because victims of malpractice sue rather than because malpractice occurs. The bill would limit damages in medical malpractice, medical products, and nursing home cases, and eliminate joint liability for economic and noneconomic losses, making it harder for plaintiffs to collect on a judgment. The bill also aims to prohibit claims against healthcare providers in any products liability lawsuit.
If you are concerned, as we are, about injured Americans losing the right to their day in court, you can take the initiative to contact your congressional representative and your two U.S. senators. Tell them to oppose this harmful legislation and preserve the present tort system, which empowers individual citizens to hold giant corporations accountable.
If you suffer a serious personal injury, you face an uphill battle for compensation. But in Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina, you can trust Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, P.C. to fight for your rights. Call us at (888) 351-1038 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.