Lawsuit abuse bill passes U.S. House

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 14, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill aimed at reducing the number of frivolous lawsuits plaguing the nation's legal system.

The House voted 228-195 in favor of the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act.

Of those 228 votes for the legislation, 225 came from Republicans and three came from Democrats. Of the 195 against the bill, 193 came from Democrats and two came from GOP representatives.

LARA, or House Resolution 2655, would impose mandatory sanctions on lawyers who file meritless suits in federal court.

Specifically, the bill would:

- Reinstate sanctions for the violation of Rule 11. Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was originally intended to deter frivolous lawsuits by sanctioning the offending party;

- Ensure that judges impose monetary sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits, including the attorney's fees and costs incurred by the victim of the frivolous lawsuit; and

- Reverse the 1993 amendments to Rule 11 that allow 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.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, in September.

"LARA encourages attorneys to think twice before filing frivolous lawsuits," Smith said at the time.

The National Association of Manufacturers, in a letter ahead of the House vote, urged lawmakers to support the bill.

"Manufacturers believe that the reforms contained in H.R. 2655 will discourage frivolous lawsuits and other abusive litigation tactics and will help make manufacturers in the United States more competitive," wrote Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of policy and government relations for NAM.

But opponents of the legislation call the bill an "abusive measure" and contend it would not do as its title suggests, but instead slow litigation, eliminate judges' discretion and increase court costs.

"By encouraging additional legal maneuvers and requiring unnecessary court orders, this legislation would harm people with valid claims," said Christine Hines, consumer and civil justice counsel for Public Citizen.

"It is another backdoor tactic by corporate lobbyists seeking to make it difficult for consumers and employees to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing."

The legislation now heads to the Senate.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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