The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) recently released a report detailing state legislative efforts to reform the U.S. civil justice system. According to NAMIC, “Tort Reform: An Overview of State Legislative Efforts to Improve the Legal System,” is the second in a series of reports it has undertaken to review key property/casualty insurance industry issues and developments in related state laws and legislative trends. It summarizes recent individual state tort reform laws, describes the laws’ net effects, details noteworthy points, and provides a hyperlink to the actual law.
“Arranged by issue and by state, the report provides compliance officers, advocates, regulators and government affairs
managers a comprehensive picture of legislative tort reform activity in the states,” said Peter Bisbecos, NAMIC director of legal and regulatory affairs. The areas in need of reform were identified by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and the American Legislative Exchange Council. NAMIC is a member of both organizations.
The report focuses on multiple tort reform issues, including: appeal bonds, jury service, class actions, non-economic damages, collateral source rule, prejudgment interest rates, common sense scientific, evidence product liability, intrastate forum shopping, private attorney, retention, joint and several liability and punitive damages.
Key findings of the report include:
• A total of 174 tort reform laws have been enacted by states in recent years;
• The majority of the reform laws passed address five key areas of tort reform: joint and several liability (35 states), collateral source rules and product liability (25 states each), non-economic damages (21 states), and punitive damages (18 states);
• The least commonly enacted tort reform measures are those that address common sense scientific evidence (one state), intrastate forum shopping (two states), jury service requirements (three states), government contracts with private attorneys (five states), and class action (seven states);
• In 2003, new tort reform laws addressing appeal bonds, private attorney retention, class actions, the collateral source rule, intrastate forum shopping and jury service were enacted in 15 states;
• Tort reform bills introduced in 16 states during 2003 addressing joint and several liability, product liability, punitive damages, and prejudgment interest rates will be carried over for further consideration in 2004;
• States that have passed the most tort reform laws include: Colorado (9), Texas (8), Louisiana and Florida (7), North Dakota, Georgia and Michigan (6), Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana and Ohio (5);
• States that have passed the fewest tort reform laws: Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming, one each, and South Carolina with none; and
• Jurisdictions cited by ATRA as magnets for litigation include: Alameda, Los Angeles and San Francisco counties in California; Madison County, Ill.; Orleans Parish, La.; Mississippi’s 22nd Judicial District; St. Louis, Mo.; Jefferson County, Texas; Starr County, Texas; Hampton County, S. C.; West Virginia and certain counties in Alabama.
The full report can be found online at http://www.namic.org/reports/tortreform/.
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