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6 posts from November 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Around the Web

The Legislature chose new leadership for the 2010 – 2011 Legislative Session.  Senator Steve Sweeney will replace Richard Codey as Senate President, and Senator Barbara Buono will replace Sweeney as Majority Leader. 

In the lower house, Assemblywoman Shelia Oliver will replace Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, who announced his retirement earlier this year. 

Interesting bill of the week:

Apparently there is such a thing as an “electronic cigarette.”  Assemblywomen Connie Wagner and Nancy Munoz introduced A-4288, which would prohibit their usage indoors and in public workplaces. 

The general consensus is that “electronic smoking” itself isn’t harmful, but its marketing toward teenagers (cherry, chocolate, and coffee flavors are popular) and habit-forming potential (they contain nicotine) could entice youngsters to begin smoking real cigarettes.  Some members of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee asked (rhetorically for now) if the manufacturers should be required to print warning labels on their product. 

There could be a bright side.  Perhaps a warning label will make it more difficult for an e-smoker to file a suit suggesting that smoking fake cigarettes made him forget that smoking real cigarettes are bad. 

Finally, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and Overlawyered.com brought the latest Miley Cyrus controversy to our attention.  A Los Angeles County judge dismissed a lawsuit against the teenage singer, which alleged that a photo she took with friends was offensive to Asian-Americans because they used their hands to pull back their eyelids.  Lucie J. Kim, who filed the class-action lawsuit, argued that Cyrus violated a state law that prohibits businesses from discriminating against people based on race, gender, ethnicity, and other traits.  Kim sought $4,000,000,000.00 in damages – roughly $4,000.00 for each Asian and Pacific Islander living in Los Angeles County. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Consequences of Specialists Fleeing NJ

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin had an excellent Op-Ed in yesterday’s Glouster County Times, asking us to consider the hidden consequences of simply ignoring malpractice reform in New Jersey.  Check it out here. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Note to New York: Cut Lawsuit Abuse First

As New York Governor David Paterson and the New York State Legislature battle over ways to address the state’s staggering budget deficit, a new report by the Pacific Research Institute suggests that raising taxes and cutting programs are not their only options. 

New Yorkers are indirectly – and unnecessarily – shouldering the burden of an excessively expensive and inefficient tort liability system, according to the study.  It is impacting New Yorkers through “higher product prices, higher insurance premiums, higher taxes, lower wages, lower returns on investment in capital and land, reduced access to health care and less innovation,” according to Dr. Lawrence McQuillian of the Pacific Research Institute. 

The full study is expected to be released in the near future, and will “identify specific reforms which would generate more than $1 billion in new revenues, and create tens of thousands of new jobs without raising any taxes or fees.”  Instead of cutting services ranging from education to health care (and dealing with potentially sticky political consequences as a result), the Governor and Legislature may want to take a serious look at the study’s recommendations. 

The study was commissioned by New Yorkers for Lawsuit Reform (NYLR).  NYLR is a statewide coalition of large and small businesses, farmers, doctors, and other health care professionals. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wrongful Death fails in Rhode Island

Citing Ambiguity and the economy, Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri vetoed 2009 H 5738, Substitute A – which would have allowed for punitive damage recovery in a wrongful death lawsuit. 

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, punitive damages can be defined as damages which are “above and beyond what is required to compensate a plaintiff for his or her loss.”  While the Governor acknowledged that there are times when a defendant should be awarded punitive damages, this particular legislation does not require “gross negligence,” as do the handful of other states with suspiciously broad wrongful death statutes. 

Much like New Jersey’s proposed “More Lawsuits, Higher Taxes” Act – this legislation would have had devastating consequences for the business community and municipalities alike – not to mention reduced access to specialized medical care for the public. 

In his veto message, the Governor stated that without any limitation or culpability requirement, this legislation would deter economic development in Rhode Island at a time when it is most needed.  I don’t need to tell you how significant this is in New Jersey.   

Civil justice reform needs to be a part of New Jersey’s economic recovery.  As Governor Carcieri realized, the Wrongful Death amendment is poised to send a state’s economic viability in exactly the wrong direction. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Governor Christie

In light of former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie’s election night victory over incumbent Governor Jon Corzine, we have posted the Governor-elect’s thoughts about civil justice reform below:

“The Christie administration will propose meaningful and fair changes to New Jersey’s legal liability policies to make our state more affordable for consumers and businesses. 

The ease with which lawsuits can be brought in New Jersey is encouraging attorneys from around the country to file lawsuits here.  Consequently, New Jersey residents and businesses must often wait in line behind out-of-state plaintiffs. 

New Jersey’s civil justice system discourages businesses from locating here and gives residents businesses a strong reason to relocate to other states. 

To end the abuse and manipulation of New Jersey’s civil justice system, Christie proposes to:

  •    Make it more difficult for out-of-state plaintiffs to sue in New Jersey courts. 
  •   Make it more difficult to file class action suits for frivolous reasons. 
  •   Prevent the admission of flimsy and dubious testimony offered by expert witnesses. 

NJLRA looks forward to working with both the Legislature and the Christie administration to reform New Jersey’s civil justice laws. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Election Day

Today is election day in New Jersey, where we will elect a governor and the next general assembly.  For up-to-the-minute coverage, visit PolitickerNJ.com or website of the Newark Star-Ledger.  We'll blog tomorrow on what the election means for civil justice reform in New Jersey.

In other news, Walter Olson over at PointofLaw.com has great coverage of another important election to our west, the race for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.