N.J. sen. says tort reform will be 'cornerstone' of economic boost

John O'Brien Sep. 16, 2010, 3:33pm


TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - A Democratic New Jersey lawmaker on Thursday said tort reform proposals will be key in getting the state's economy to rebound.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, the chair of the Economic Growth Committee, made the remark at the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance's Fall Membership Luncheon. Lesniak has served in the Senate since 1983.

He is also a co-sponsor of a bill that would limit the amount of money needed as bond for an appeal.

"Numerous economic reports have predicted New Jersey's economy would rebound more slowly than our neighboring states and most of the rest of the nation," Lesniak said.

"I'm here to say these predictions can be wrong, that we can boost our economy and help create good paying jobs."

He added that the NJLRA's proposals will be a "cornerstone of our effort to reposition New Jersey's economy for long-term growth."

The bill would cap the bond amount at $50 million or the amount of the judgment, whichever is less.

The cap is already in place for tobacco companies, but the legislation would allow it to apply to all civil cases. The bill was introduced in March.

It is sponsored by Assemblymen Gary Schaer and John McKeon. Assemblywoman Amy Handlin is also co-sponsor.

Twenty-seven states have passed appeals bond caps, and 11 of the remaining states have caps for tobacco companies.

"Businesses which cannot obtain the financing they need to post a bond for appeal are denied this right by default or must face bankruptcy," the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance says.

"Even with a strong case warranting appellate review, the cost of proceeding with litigation is unattainable for many defendants, increasing pressure to settle frivolous claims and risking damage to an entity's reputation."

New Jersey's reputation took a hit this year when a Pacific Research Institute study ranked the state's as the most worrisome tort system. The study was based on plaintiff awards and settlements, the amount of lawsuits, tort rules and reforms, venue reforms and judicial-selection reforms.

New Jersey also popped up on the American Tort Reform Foundation's Judicial Hellholes report late last year. The report singled out Atlantic County.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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