The Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2016, which passed in the House in January, would make it much more difficult to file class action suits as well as imposing onerous requirements on asbestos victims seeking compensation. The Act requires that every member of a class action must suffer the exact injury as the named plaintiff. It also requires that asbestos victims put sensitive personal information on publicly-accessible Internet forums in order to collect awarded compensation. The U.S. House-passed tort reform bill is likely to fail.
In short, it’s a horrible piece of tort reform designed to protect industry at the expense of injured citizens. Despite its passage in the House of Representatives, it will almost certainly be vetoed by President Obama.
Darren McKinney, spokesperson for the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) told Legal News Line, “These are common sense, reasonable, civil justice reforms. That we even have to talk about undertaking them… is frustrating, [but] it’s not surprising.”
Mr. McKinney commented that there are a number of hurdles the bill must get past before becoming a law. The first substantial hurdle is having it blocked in the Senate. Even if the bill makes it past that challenge – and with a Republican-controlled Congress, it could – it’s unlikely to survive a veto.
He continued, “Whether a Democratic filibuster in Senate could be outmaneuvered or not, certainly President Obama is never, ever going to sign any bill that would crimp the earning capacity of the plaintiffs’ bar.”
His basis for arguing that there is likely to be no Democratic support for the bill is that federal level Democrats are not going to go against their biggest supporters: labor unions and plaintiffs’ lawyers. In his opinion, the Republicans would need to control the House and the Senate and the White House to pass the bill. Unless, of course, they were able to come up with a veto-proof majority in the Senate and House, something that is unlikely to happen, given that 16 House Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing the bill.
According to Mr. McKinney, presidential candidates Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) seem to support ATRA’s position on tort reform. However, he added that ATRA is not endorsing any candidate in the primary elections.
Mr. McKinney is uncertain how Donald Trump, who is the frontrunner to get the Republican nomination for President, would stand on tort reform, as Mr. Trump has been both a plaintiff and a defendant in several suits. “Trump has been a businessman, and he’s certainly been involved in his share of litigation. He’s been targeted by any number of less-than-righteous lawsuits.”
It’s McKinney’s opinion that, no matter how the presidential election goes, it’s vital that that Republicans keep control of Congress. This may be as challenging as passing the bill, frankly. Up to seven Republican senators are facing some difficult re-election fights; if they fail, that’s more than enough seats to give the Democrats control of the Senate.