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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 156420 Find in a Library
Title: Changing Landscape
Journal: ABA Journal  Volume:81  Dated:(August 1995)  Pages:56-61
Author(s): M Middleton
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 6
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews tort law reform that is occurring at the State and Federal levels, along with various critiques of reform proposals and the current tort system.
Abstract: Many proponents of remaking the tort system -- a coalition that includes doctors, insurers, manufacturers, and other business interests -- believe they may be reaching the culmination of a 20-year drive to quell a perceived litigation explosion that they maintain has led to million-dollar judgments by irresponsible juries that judges will not control. Since the mid-1970's, the States have been chipping away at some tort law rules that proponents of change contend give plaintiffs excessive advantages. There has been extensive State activity in such areas as joint and several liability, product liability, punitive damages, and the collateral source rule on compensation. At the Federal level, 1995 has been a banner year for advocates of restructuring tort law. In March the House of Representatives passed H.R. 956, the Common Sense Product Liability and Legal Reform Act. It would impose a cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damage awards in most medical malpractice cases, including those brought in State courts. The bill also would cap punitive damages in all civil cases at triple the award for economic damages or $250,000, whichever is greater, and would eliminate joint and several liability in all civil cases. The House passed a related bill, H.R. 988, which would apply a modified "loser pays" rule. In May the Senate passed its own version of H.R. 956 but limited its scope to product liability actions filed in State or Federal courts. Opponents maintain that Federal legislation would weight the system in favor of deep-pocket defendants and insurance companies without giving them adequate incentive to reduce activities that cause injuries. A chart shows the components of tort reform law in the various States.
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Civil proceedings; Law reform; Products liability; Torts
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