Business oriented Bloomberg News did a piece this week on the changing landscape for tort “reform” given the election results. A few snippets from the article:
Trial lawyers, who say they were demonized during 12 years of Republican congressional rule, are seeking vindication with the Democrats’ return to power…Their plans include pushing tougher enforcement of workplace-safety rules and enhanced patients’ rights.
They say the shift in power also signals an end to the so- called tort reform backed by President George W. Bush, which was aimed at limiting awards in personal-injury lawsuits against doctors and U.S. corporations.
“The Republicans had a hell of a chance for the last couple of years and really didn’t get that far,” said John Coale, a trial attorney at the Coale Cooley firm in Washington. “And now it’s over.”
Businesses are girding for a fight in Congress over workplace safety and such other issues as making it a federal crime for chief executive officers and other company officials to knowingly introduce defective products that kill or severely injure consumers.
Bush’s major victory in limiting lawsuits was 2005 legislation requiring the biggest class-action suits to be filed in federal court rather than state courts, which have been more sympathetic to plaintiffs.
The Republican-controlled Congress failed to pass proposals to place caps on medical-malpractice awards and to create a $140 billion fund for asbestos-exposure victims.
Linda Lipsen, chief lobbyist for the [The Association of Trial Lawyers of America] would like to see Congress strip the insurance industry of its exemption from antitrust laws, a move that would pave the way for suits against insurers. She also suggested there might be congressional hearings one day on “why there are 98,000 deaths per year” in the medical industry.
Trial attorneys will “alert the Congress to areas where they can encourage safety,” including “cars, airplanes, the environment, clean air and water, medical procedures, hospitals,” Lipsen said. “Our job is to make sure these industries are accountable.”