Tom Miller (D)
DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline)-Iowa lawmakers approved sweeping legislation Monday that allows consumer fraud victims to sue companies to recover damages.
The proposal, backed by Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller, handily cleared the Democrat-led House and the Senate. It would give Iowans the same legal rights that exist in other states, proponents say.
Currently, citizens cannot sue companies, leaving the state attorney general's office to enforce the state's consumer protection laws.
The legislation includes a two-year statute of limitations and would not apply retroactively. Also, Iowans would not be able to file class action lawsuits without the attorney general's consent, under an amendment to the bill.
House File 712 also exempts services provided by insurance companies, banks, attorneys, cable television providers, physicians, veterinarians and architects.
The measure, which Miller has called for nearly two decades without success, is expected to be signed by Democratic Gov. Chet Culver.
State Rep. Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield, said the bill would help take pressure off the attorney general's office, which has a backlog of thousands of consumer complaints.
He said to deal with the complaints pending, the state would need to hire some-50 additional staff attorneys.
An annual survey of corporate counsel last year indicated that Iowa had the seventh most fair civil judicial system in the nation, down from fourth a year earlier.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.