PCI: Civil Justice Reforms Making Progress But Still Far from Finished

While Congress took a big step in passing the Class Action Fairness Act earlier this year, state litigation reform measures are likely to have a more significant impact on insurance markets and the economic environment across the nation, according to an industry association.

“The passage of the Class Action Fairness Act was an important step towards achieving widespread legal reform,” said John Lobert, senior vice president for legal affairs for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). “But we still have a long way to go. Perhaps the greatest and most quickly felt impacts will be the result of the reforms made in the backyards of the consumers by their state legislatures.”

Over the past couple of years, PCI has supported legislatures in reforming a variety of state tort issues. Last year alone, 39 states considered some form of tort reform. Topics with some of the most significant outcomes for the insurance industry are asbestos, medical liability and venue reform.

In the last two years, asbestos reform legislation passed in Ohio and Georgia, is currently pending in Texas and is awaiting the governor’s signature in Florida. The focal point of each state law or bill prioritizes people who are sick from an asbestos-related disease or injury and preserves the right of others who have been exposed to asbestos to pursue legal action should they become sick.

In addition, medical liability reform legislation was enacted in Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Virginia with pending legislation in Illinois and New Hampshire. Progress in states that have enacted medical liability reform has included capping non-economic damages and limiting joint and several liability. In addition, venue reform bills, which are designed to lessen forum shopping in all civil cases, are pending in Illinois and Texas.

“While Congress struggles to make significant progress on tort reform, states are leading the charge to make the necessary improvements,” added Lobert. “However, while the recent and pending reforms will have a significant impact, we will have to fight hard to protect these advancements to ensure comprehensive and lasting improvements in our civil justice system.”