The Senate approved a measure Thursday to help shield businesses from major class action lawsuits like the ones that have been brought against tobacco companies, giving President Bush the first legislative victory of his second term.
Under the legislation, long sought by big business, large multistate class action lawsuits could no longer be heard in small state courts. Such courts have handed out multimillion-dollar verdicts.
Instead, the cases would be heard by federal judges, who have not proven as open to those type of lawsuits.
Under the compromise legislation, class-action suits would be heard in state court if the primary defendant and more than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state. But if less than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state as the primary defendant, the case would go to federal court.
At least $5 million would have to be at stake for a federal court to hear a class-action suit.
The bill also would limit lawyers’ fees in so-called coupon settlements — when plaintiffs get discounts on products instead of financial settlements — by linking the fees to the coupon’s redemption rate or the actual hours spent working on a case.
This is almost too sane for tort reform -- Congress asserting its power to regulate issues that affect multiple states and disallowing lawyers to shop for lawsuit havens like Edwardsville, Illinois, and Beaumont, Texas. What's even better is the tally of the Senate vote -- 72 for, 26 against. That means that nearly half the Democrats in the Senate voted FOR the legislation. What gives?
Perhaps even they realize how out-of-touch their leadership is.
“Are there bad lawyers that bring meritless cases? Sure there are, and we should crack down on them,” said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a former trial lawyer. “But this bill is not about punishing bad lawyers. It is about hurting consumers and helping corporations avoid liability for misconduct.”
Sorry, Harry....we missed that last part, we were laughing so hard at your first sentence. If you HAD cracked down on your shameless, pimping brethren who shop around for juries and take millions home while their plaintiffs get pennies on the dollar, we wouldn't be here now, would we? Could your reluctance to deal with the problem be due to the fact that lawyers and law firms are the biggest donors to the Democratic Party and the DNC?