Tort reform bill introduced in Congress

John O'Brien Mar. 11, 2011, 11:00am


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Two Congressional Republicans have introduced a bill that introduces tougher penalties for those who file meritless lawsuits.

The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2011 was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Wednesday. Smith is the House Judiciary Committee chairman, and Grassley is the Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member.

The bill is designed to impose mandatory sanctions for lawyers who file meritless lawsuits in federal court.

"Lawsuit abuse has become too common in American society, partly because the lawyers who bring these cases have everything to gain and nothing to lose," Smith said. "Plaintiffs lawyers can file frivolous suits, no matter how absurd the claims, without any penalty.

"Meanwhile, defendants are faced with the choice of years of litigation, high court costs and attorneys fees or a settlement. Our legal system encourages frivolous lawsuits while defendants are left paying the price even when they are innocent."

The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution was scheduled to hear testimony Friday. The bill is aimed at changing rules passed in 1993. Smith and Grassley say federal rules mandating sanctions for frivolous suits were watered down in 1993.

The bill reinstates mandatory sanctions for attorneys who file meritless suits and forces them to pay the defendant's attorneys fees and court costs. It also reverses a 1993 amendment that allowed parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions for making frivolous claims by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.

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