Legal reform today in America is critical, and critical for economic reform. Our free market economy cannot be sustained without ensuring full guarantees of private property and transparent predictability for entrepreneurship. Legal reform should be an integral part of any state government reform agenda.
In 2009, American’s legal system cost $248.1 billion, or roughly $808 per person. This statistic makes America’s civil justice system the most expensive in the industrialized world. Forecasts also expect higher levels of tort cost growth for 2011, given that growth in legal costs also generally increases with inflation and are directly tied to government spending as well.
The tactics used by aggressive personal injury lawyers cause many companies to settle questionable lawsuits just to stay out of court. They use the media to sensationalize these issues and often plaintiffs can be awarded multi-million dollar punitive damage awards, another reason companies often settle out of court. Lawsuits like this are bad for business and bad for society as one can easily see from the rising cost of our legal system.
Reform must take place on multiple fronts in order to address this serious legal issue. Health care liability reform, class action reform, and punitive damage limitations are among the issues the SGLF believes need to be addressed. Regulation through litigation must be addressed as well. It is crucial that state leaders step up and reform the system at the state level.
A reformed tort system will also ensure that the United States remains competitive on a global scale. Businesses must do what is in their best interests, and the high costs of the U.S. judicial system do not bode well for them. A reformed, efficient legal system will also greatly benefit the residents of the United States, as it will not only encourage creativity and innovation, but will lower product costs, insurance premiums and taxes and increase employment across multiple sectors.
News & Articles
Bentley, state leaders announce prison overhaul effort
Written by The Associated Press for The Montgomery Advertiser on June 11, 2014Legal Reform
Gov. Robert Bentley and state leaders on Tuesday announced an attempt to overhaul the state's severely overcrowded prison system, considered at risk of a federal takeover. Bentley said state prisons are at 192 percent of capacity. "It's an issue that is not going to wait. We need help," Bentley said. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a partnership between the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Department of Justice, will examine the state system and suggest ways to contain costs without risking public safety. The nonpartisan Council of State Governments will help Alabama through the review. Bentley requested the assistance after a series of blistering findings about state prisons. The Department of Justice in January sent a letter accusing the state of keeping female inmates in unconstitutional conditions because of widespread sexual abuse at Alabama's only prison for women.
Michigan leads way in demanding balanced budget
Written by Matt Walter for The Detroit News on April 24, 2014Legal Reform
It is spring in Washington. President Barack
Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats have said no
to a budget that gets to balance despite its quick passage in the House. Again. So,
where Washington continues to fail the American people, state leaders
have taken the mantle of leadership through reform initiatives that will
force Washington to act sanely. Congressman
Gary Peters, too, voted against the balanced budget. His actions appear
to be out of step with his constituents, the families and small
businesses who keep their check books balanced. Peters’ former
colleagues in the Michigan House have taken significant steps to remedy
the problem of federal budgets that never balance.
Alabama Voices » Kay Ivey: It's time to demand a balanced budget
Written by Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey for The Montgomery Advertiser on April 03, 2014Legal Reform
The Alabama Legislature is completing another legislative session, having developed balanced budgets. Difficult decisions had to be made to reach that point, but just like your family’s finances, spending can’t exceed revenue — a common-sense practice seemingly lost on most in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, leaders are bound by the state Constitution to balance the state’s budget every year. It’s time the federal government followed our lead. That is why I recently pledged my support to Demand Balance Now, a national effort to amplify calls for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution through a state-led, limited Article V convention. This historic initiative is being led by statehouses across the nation and is spearheaded nationally by the State Government Leadership Foundation. Now more than ever, states should hold the federal government accountable for out-of-control national spending. I hope you’ll join the call to end runaway federal spending and balance the budget by signing the pledge to Demand Balance Now: www.demandbalancenow.com
Michigan petitions Congress for federal balanced budget amendment, constitutional convention
Written by Jonathan Oosting for Michigan Live on March 26, 2014Legal Reform
LANSING, MI -- Michigan has joined more than 20 other states with active
applications urging Congress to call a convention for the purposes of drafting
a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Michigan Senate on Wednesday signed off on the final draft of Joint
Resolution V, approving House modifications in a 25-12 party-line vote roughly
two months after Gov. Rick Snyder backed the push during his State of the State
Address. Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires Congress to convene a
convention of the states if 34 Legislatures petition it to do so. Any proposed
amendment would have to be ratified by 38 states. The process has never been completed, and it's not clear what a
convention would look like or who would set the rules. Still, supporters
say states must act and force the federal government to stop spending
more than it is taking in each year.
Growing Chorus of State Lawmakers Call for Constitutional Convention to Force Fiscal Discipline in Washington
Written by Fred Lucas for The Blaze on March 20, 2014Legal Reform
Inaction in the face of a $17 trillion debt by the federal government has prompted lawmakers from 29 states to call for a constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment. The list of lawmakers – all Republicans so far — includes state House speakers, Senate presidents and lieutenant governors, among others. Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution allows for a constitutional convention to be convened if two-thirds of the states call for one. If a convention approves an amendment, three-fourths of the states must vote to adopt it into the Constitution. Though this option has never been used for amending the Constitution, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell expects enough states to sign on within the next two years to force a convention. Traveling the state, she said she finds that most citizens are frustrated and disillusioned with the federal government.
Group wants to limit debt constitutionally
Written by Niki Kelly and Brian Francisco for The Journal Gazette on March 16, 2014Legal Reform
The State Government Leadership Foundation, the national organization that coordinates policy ideas with state-level leaders, unveiled a national initiative last week in support of the state-led effort to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution through a limited constitutional convention. “Families know that to balance household budgets, you don’t spend more than you have,” said Foundation Executive Director Matt Walter. “Make no mistake, our national debt is an immediate threat to our country and our children. “It’s time to take back control of our national bank account and Demand Balance Now! We must immediately halt the ballooning $17 trillion debt from Obama’s Washington that will cripple our economy for years to come.” He said states are leading on fiscal issues. Twenty-one states have passed legislation calling for a balanced-budget amendment that would be passed through a state-led constitutional convention. In addition, five more states have passed such legislation in one of their legislative chambers during their current legislative sessions.
Mo. lawmakers will try to limit medical lawsuits
Written by The Associated Press for The News Tribune on December 16, 2013Legal Reform
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) --
Missouri lawmakers plan to try again to limit how much money people can receive
in medical malpractice lawsuits. Missouri House Speaker Tim
Jones says the liability limits are a priority for the 2014 session. And Rep.
Eric Burlison, of Springfield, already is promoting a bill. Republican lawmakers want to
reinstate a $350,000 limit on noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering
that was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court in July 2012. The court said the limit
violated a common-law right to seek damages for medical malpractice that
predated the adoption of a state constitution in 1820. The proposed legislation would
abolish that common-law right and instead make medical liability lawsuits
subject to state law. A similar bill stalled earlier
this year in the Senate.
Companies find a new way to fight fraudulent lawsuits
Written by Tiger Joyce for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on October 17, 2013Legal Reform
A federal judge in Wheeling,
W.Va., last month stiffened the punishment for two prominent Pittsburgh
personal injury lawyers and a discredited radiologist who, a jury found last
December, had promulgated fraudulent asbestos lawsuits against CSX
Transportation, the freight railroad company that employs nearly 1,000
Pennsylvanians and more than another 31,000 Americans. The federal Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act under which CSX brought its
table-turning landmark lawsuit against the fraudsters allowed U.S. District
Judge Frederick Stamp to triple the jury's original award for damages to nearly
$1.3 million. Judge Stamp also may yet require former law partners Robert N.
Peirce Jr. and Louis Raimond and creative X-ray reader Ray Harron to pay all or
much of the $10 million CSX says it has spent on legal fees and court costs.
Meanwhile, smaller businesses
and larger companies that are frequently targeted by meritless or fraudulent
lawsuits have begun to look to CSX's aggressive RICO lawsuit as a new model for
punishing those who audaciously perpetrate this kind of costly fraud on our
courts. I say "costly"
because every dollar companies spend defending themselves against bogus
lawsuits is a dollar they will not spend creating jobs and investing in new
technologies and growth opportunities. In addition to inflating prices for
goods and services, as litigation costs are inevitably passed on to consumers,
such lawsuits also clog court dockets, waste precious, taxpayer-provided court
resources and delay court cases for those who have suffered real injuries.
Oklahoma Legislature passes 25 lawsuit reform bills to end weeklong special session
Written by RANDY KREHBIEL & BARBARA HOBEROCK for Tulsa World on September 09, 2013Legal Reform
OKLAHOMA CITY - The House took
some persuading, and even then the Republican leadership and the Fallin
administration didn't get exactly what they wanted, but a sheaf of 25 lawsuit
reform bills went through the final stage of adoption by the Oklahoma Legislature
on Monday to bring a weeklong special session to an end. The bills are intended to
replace a single, omnibus measure enacted in 2009 and declared unconstitutional
by the state Supreme Court in June. Twenty-four of the 25 bills are intended to
correct the 2009 law's violation of the state's single-subject rule. The 25th
and most controversial deals with the so-called certificate of merit
requirement, which the court has twice thrown out on other grounds. House Speaker T.W. Shannon had
to come out on the House floor to rustle up the last few votes on that one, SB
1x, as 15 Republicans joined the 21 Democrats on the floor in voting no. Three
other Republicans voted "constitutional privilege," and three more
were absent, leaving Shannon the bare minimum 51 votes needed for passage.
He never did get the 68 votes
needed for the emergency clause, a small victory for the Democratic minority
that went through the special session kicking and screaming to the end. The
emergency clauses on the last three bills through the House also failed, this
time because too many Republicans had left and none of the remaining Democrats
cared to bail out the majority. The failed emergency clauses
were the only items on Gov. Mary Fallin's to-do list not to be checked. The 21 bills with emergency
clauses will become law as soon as they are signed by Fallin. The four without
won't become effective until 90 days after signing.
Special Session Starts Today
Written by Michael Cross for KOSU on September 03, 2013Legal Reform
State lawmakers return to the
capitol today for a Special Session to fix a Comprehensive Tort Reform bill
declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June. Justices ruled House Bill 1603
passed in 2009 and signed by then Governor Brad Henry contained too many
subjects and thus constituted log rolling. The Governor and legislative
leaders are hoping to get through as many as 30 bills passed over the next two
weeks. While it’s been seven years
since lawmakers called a special session, this one wasn’t much of a surprise to
political science professor Keith Gaddie.
“If you look back at the
history of what the Republican legislature has been doing, this is one of the
hallmark pieces of legislation that the chamber and the business community have
been pushing for. Hearing that it had been overturned by the Supreme Court you
had to know a special session was going to follow.” The seven to two ruling came
down from the State Supreme Court just a few days after lawmakers ended the
regular session. Over the past two and a half
months, Senate staffers worked tirelessly to create the individual bills needed
to replace House Bill 1603. Also, state leaders needed to
plan the perfect time when all of their lawmakers returned from their summer
vacation. Gaddie says the sooner the
better as timing becomes essential.
10 years on, tort reform sees suits, payouts drop
Written by The Associated Press for The News Observer on September 01, 2013Legal Reform
AUSTIN, Texas — Ten years after
the Texas Legislature capped damages in the state's medical malpractice
lawsuits, the number of suits and the amounts paid out have fallen sharply. The Austin American Statesman
) Sunday that state Department of Insurance
data shows medical malpractice claims, including lawsuits, resolved in a year
fell by nearly two-thirds between 2003 and 2011 to 450. The average payout
declined 22 percent to about $199,000. Supporters of the "tort
reform" law say doctors worry less about being sued and have seen their
malpractice insurance premiums fall. Opponents counter that tort reform has
barred many injured by doctors from going to court or relatives suing after
losing a loved one due to medical malpractice. The law took effect Sept. 1,
2003, and limited damages for pain and suffering in most malpractice cases to
$250,000. Texas is one of 31 states to cap damages, though there is no limit on
economic damages like reimbursement for medical bills or lost wages.
Oklahoma house speaker expects special session on tort reform to take up to 10 days
Published in The Associated Press on August 28, 2013Legal Reform
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma
lawmakers will likely take up more than two dozen bills when they convene at
the state Capitol next month for a special session dealing with tort
legislation, according to House Speaker T.W. Shannon. Shannon, R-Lawton, said a
rewrite of the state's tort system would require 26 to 28 bills. The Journal
Record reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/17VUGja
) that Shannon told lawmakers in
a memo last week there's no deadline for bill introduction, though all House
bills will be read on Sept. 3, the first day of the session. He said he expects the session
to last six to 10 days.
Gov. Mary Fallin called the
special session to restore several laws overturned by the state Supreme Court
that were designed to cut businesses' legal liability costs. It will be the first special
legislative session since Fallin took office in 2011, and the governor wants
lawmakers to limit the session to restoring the provisions of a bill adopted in
2009 that was designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and medical
malpractice claims filed in Oklahoma. The high court threw out the
legislation earlier this year, finding that it violated the single-subject rule
in the Oklahoma Constitution and amounted to logrolling, or the passing of
legislation that contains multiple subjects.
Oklahoma Governor Calls Special Session on Lawsuit Reform
Published in The Insurance Journal on August 13, 2013Legal Reform
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin
has called for a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature, to begin Sept. 3
for work on lawsuit reform. Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order
calls on lawmakers to re-institute components of House Bill 1603, a
comprehensive lawsuit reform package signed into law in 2009. HB 1603 was designed to reduce
the number of frivolous lawsuits and medical malpractice claims filed in
Oklahoma, making the state more business friendly and protecting Oklahoma
physicians from frivolous lawsuits. It was passed with bipartisan support and
signed into law by Democratic Governor Brad Henry. Earlier this year, the law was
struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court for violating the Constitution’s
“single-subject” rule, a prohibition on legislative logrolling.
Fallin wants legislators to
separate the law into appropriate bills, thus reinstating the policy without
violating the single subject rule. Leaders of Oklahoma’s House and
Senate encouraged Gov. Fallin to call
the special session to work on restoring the legislation, according to
Associated Press reports. The 2009 legislation made a
number of changes to how civil lawsuits are filed and litigated in the state,
including redefining what constitutes a frivolous lawsuit and strengthening
summary judgment rules that make it easier for a judge to dismiss a lawsuit
that has no legal merit.
Tort reform is good for Texas
Written by Richard W. Weekley for Houston Chronicle on August 05, 2013Legal Reform
Greg Abbott, Texas attorney
general and gubernatorial candidate, has a personal story that is inspirational
to Texans, regardless of their politics. At the age of 26, shortly after
graduating from law school, Abbott was hit by a falling tree while jogging and
was left paralyzed from the waist down. Abbott went on to serve with
distinction as a Texas trial judge and as a member of the Texas Supreme Court.
In 2012, he was elected to his third term as attorney general. If he is elected
next year, he will be the first Texas governor to serve in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, Abbott's
personal story, as inspiring as it is, frequently brings out politicized
comments from a few personal injury trial lawyers and their sympathizers.
Abbott sued and won a settlement in the tree-falling accident. Over the years,
trial lawyers have suggested he is hypocritical and somehow didn't deserve the
damage award because of his strong support for lawsuit reform.
Abbott has been outspoken in
his support for the tort reforms that have reined in the lawsuit abuses that have
plagued Texas. Abbott knows these reforms do not deny any Texan the right to
access our courts for legal redress of wrongs or injuries like those he
suffered. None of us knows, from one day to the next, when we may need to bring
a lawsuit or defend ourselves against one. The goal of tort reform in Texas has
always been to create and maintain a fair, honest and predictable civil justice
system that balances the rights of both plaintiffs and defendants. Every
lawsuit reform that has been passed in Texas, beginning in 1995, has assured
Florida Lawmakers Approve Medical Malpractice Reform
Written by Michael Adams for The Insurance Journal on May 20, 2013Legal Reform
In a victory for medical
malpractice insurers and physicians, Florida lawmakers have approved a series
of tort reforms that among other things will require expert witnesses
testifying against physicians in a malpractice suit to be engaged in the same
The Florida House of
Representatives by a 77-38 margin approved the legislation (SB 1792), which
originated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. A priority of the Florida Medical
Association, the Florida Chamber Coalition for Legal Reform and the Florida
Justice Reform Institute, the bill addresses several areas of the law that
proponents said expose physicians to legal action and contribute to higher
medical malpractice costs.
FMA General Counsel Jeff Scott
said changes are needed so physicians can be assured they are granted adequate
legal rights as they practice medicine. “It is important that we promote the
highest standard of medical care our state has to offer by holding bad actors
responsible for their actions,” he said in a statement.
The Florida Chamber praised
lawmakers and the FMA on the bill’s passage. “We congratulate the FMA on this
victory,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber.
“This bill aims to make Florida’s legal environment more friendly for
Lawmakers struggle with tort reform
Written by Rob Moritz for Arkansas News on April 15, 2013Legal Reform
LITTLE ROCK — The failure of tort reform measures to gain much traction among lawmakers this session will leave unresolved a legislative response to a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of a 2003 law meant to limit civil lawsuits and damage awards. Now some advocates for action to address the decree say they may have to depend on the high court itself for change.
In 2012, the the state Supreme Court struck down a provision of the 2003 tort reform law that limited who could testify as an expert witness in medical malpractice cases. The decision came on the heals of a 2011 ruling in which the court had stricken provisions in the law that capped punitive damage awards in civil cases. This year, champions of tort reform entered the regular session with the idea of putting in the state constitution parts of the state law that the high court said did not meet constitutional muster. But last week, a joint legislative committee considering proposed constitutional amendments to recommend for referral to the 2014 general election ballot passed over a pair of tort reform proposals.
Senate Joint Resolution 2 by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, would have required that a person who files a lawsuit deemed to be frivolous pay the other party’s attorney fees; that an expert witness in a medical malpractice lawsuit be trained in the same or similar discipline as the person on trial or have similar education and experience; and that an attorney who files a medical malpractice suit file a “certificate of good faith” stating that a medical expert is ready to testify that medical malpractice occurred.
Florida physicians closer to medical malpractice reform
Written by Christine Jordan Sexton for South Florida Business Journal on April 04, 2013Legal Reform
The state’s leading physician association is one step closer to passing a medical malpractice bill after it was approved by the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday. However, the victory came with a stinging rebuke from state Sen. David Simmons, who said the Florida Medical Association should be focusing on other issues more important to Florida doctors, including their future as independent businesses in an ever-changing health care delivery system.
Simmons said doctors in his district email him concerned that corporations are buying their practices. Instead of owning the physician practice, Simmons said, doctors will become employees. “The entire profession is at risk. It’s at risk of no longer being a profession,” said Simmons, who ultimately voted for the bill (SB-1792). “That’s what physicians ought to be dealing with their own future. They are drowning. They are literally drowning and getting ready to be destroyed as a profession within a few years and what we are doing is we are dealing with this; a side issue.”
The risk of enforcing hospital staffing levels
Written by Tiger Joyce for The Washington Post on February 09, 2013Legal Reform
As drafted, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s well-intentioned “Patient Protection Act,” which would set specific nurse-to-patient ratios for hospitals operating in the city [“District to weigh boosting nurse staffs,” Metro, Feb. 5], invites presumably unintended consequences that could significantly increase health-care costs and decrease access to care.
Under the bill, hospitals in violation of staffing requirements will face civil penalties of up to $25,000 a day, regardless of whether any patient suffers a resulting injury. But it doesn’t limit civil enforcement to the D.C. attorney general. As a result, entrepreneurial personal-injury lawyers could file costly lawsuits, as they did in California three years ago. There, personal-injury lawyers won a jaw-dropping $677 million class-action verdict against an operator of 22 assisted-care facilities across the state, not to compensate any injured persons but simply because records showed occasional dips below mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.
Arizona lawmaker works to cut down on medical malpractice suits
Written by Howard Fischer for The East Valley Tribune on February 05, 2013Legal Reform
A state legislator wants to impose some new requirements on judges and attorneys in his bid to cut down on medical malpractice lawsuits. The proposal by Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, would bar lawyers from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit unless they were certified by the state Supreme Court as a "medical malpractice attorney.'' Thorpe's bill does not define what it would take to be certified, leaving the details up to the state's high court.
"The idea is to try to weed out the difference between good, legitimate attorneys that are practicing in the area of medical malpractice ... from the ambulance chasers,'' he said. Thorpe said he envisions the certification process as establishing minimum standards. But HB 2465 does not stop there. It also would allow these cases to be heard only by judges who also have been through special training on medical malpractice cases. Thorpe said the reasoning is the same. "Let's ensure that even a judge assigned to the case has a baseline understanding of the issue.''
Tort reform package advances
As anticipated, the tort reform package was reported out of the House Courts of Justice full committee on Jan. 28, without further substantive discussion. Del. Dave Albo, R-Springfield, exercised the prerogative of the chair to reflect on the process that brought the bills this far.
The tort reform bills have been a “darn nightmare,” he said. “I’ve been here for 20 years, with everybody getting along, then all of a sudden,” people are finding things they don’t like, and starting to pick the system apart. The reform effort gained momentum this year, despite trial lawyers’ protests that Virginia’s highly regarded civil justice system is not hostile to business.
Medical Malpractice Tort Reform Signed into Law in Michigan
Published in Insurance Journal on January 11, 2013Legal Reform
Tort reform advocates in Michigan, including medical malpractice insurer, The Doctors Company, lauded the recent signing of reform legislation in Michigan.
The Michigan State Medical Society, with significant support from The Doctors Company and its trade organization, the Michigan Insurance Coalition, initiated the legislation known as the “Patients First Reform Package.”
Pence seeks tort reform in first year
Written by Tom LoBianco for Associated Press on January 10, 2013Legal Reform
Gov.-elect Mike Pence will include tort reform in a first-year legislative agenda that is slowly taking shape.
Pence has declined to release the details of his legislative agenda before he is sworn in Monday. But Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he filed Pence's proposal to make losers in lawsuits pay all the legal fees.
MO GOP To Bring Back Tort Reform In 2013
Published in Associated Press on January 05, 2013Legal Reform
Missouri lawmakers have their eyes on reinstating liability limits for medical malpractice cases after the state Supreme Court struck down an existing cap on damages last summer.
Republicans claim a supermajority when the Legislature meets Wednesday to start the 2013 session, and GOP leaders say restoring the liability limits invalidated by the high court is needed to control health care costs and help keep doctors in Missouri.
Tort reform battle ahead for Assembly
Published in Virginia Lawyers Weekly on December 06, 2012Legal Reform
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce is out with its legislative wish list for the 2013 General Assembly and tort reform measures loom large on the Chamber agenda.
The Chamber will continue efforts to change Virginia’s 40-year practice of barring depositions from summary judgment motions, an issue already aired in a July 18 hearing.
The chamber hopes to limit the ability of a plaintiff to take a nonsuit in the late stages of a lawsuit and expand the ability of the defense to collect attorneys’ fees and expenses when plaintiffs take such a voluntary dismissal of right. Current law “effectively allows plaintiffs to take a ‘do-over’ after the defendant has expended significant resources preparing for trial,” the Chamber’s statement says.
Legal battle brews in TN over malpractice caps
Written by Bobby Allyn for The Tennessean on October 14, 2012Legal Reform
How much patients in Tennessee can recover for their pain and suffering could be significantly affected in the coming months if the state’s Supreme Court hears a challenge of a new law that limits medical malpractice awards.
The issue has taken on urgency as fungal meningitis victims start to craft medical malpractice lawsuits and attorneys weigh whether the suits will be filed in Tennessee or in Massachusetts, where injured patients can sue medical facilities for unlimited amounts of money for pain and suffering.