N.H. Bill Curbing Civil Lawsuits, Damages Reaches Governor’s Desk

June 15, 2007

A bill limiting who can be sued in the state is on its way to New Hampshire Governor John Lynch for his signature.

The New Hampshire House this week gave final approval to the bill that defines who can be sued and ordered to pay damages in a lawsuit, even after some lawmakers complained the language is confusing.

The bill defines parties in a lawsuit as individuals or entities named in the lawsuit when a jury is deciding damages. It also declares that damages in a lawsuit be determined in proportion to a defendant’s fault, and only when that fault is deemed a “substantial” factor in causing harm to the plaintiff. It goes into effect Jan. 1.

“This bill is very reasonable,” said Republican Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, a lawyer from Windham. “It’s a victims’ bill; it’s not an insurance companies’ bill.”

Opponents said the wording of the bill could lead to problems.

“I still feel the word ‘substantial’ is very subjective,” said Rep. Stephen DeStefano, a Merrimack Democrat. “Substantial when you have a large case with many factors would be a quagmire,” he said.

Others said the bill would clarify the ground rules for civil lawsuits.

“It is simple,” said Nashua Democrat Bette Lasky, the bill’s sponsor. “It redefines the term ‘party’ in a suit so that the person who is wronged in a civil suit can determine for him or herself with his attorney who he would like to sue.”

She added, “This brings this back to paying what you were responsible for.”

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