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11 posts from December 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in Review

            I am happy to report that the 214th NJ legislature has taken positive first steps toward reforming New Jersey's civil justice climate.  Most notably, A-2473/S-480, which extends appeal bond caps to all industries, is now on second reading in the General Assembly.  We also saw efforts to reform New Jersey's oft-abused Consumer Fraud Act with the introduction of A-3333.  Finally, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee held a hearing earlier this year on A-1982, which would reform New Jersey's medical malpractice environment for our state's doctors.    Collectively, these initiatives would discourage frivolous class-action litigation and enhance the integrity of scientific evidence admitted in our courts.  NJLRA would like to thank all of the bills' sponsors and the legislative leadership in both parties for their commitment to advancing pro-business legislation.  Together with our supporters, we are able to educate the legislature on the importance of these initiatives.  Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who was NJLRA's keynote speaker at our Fall Membership Luncheon, said NJLRA's proposals will be a "cornerstone" of the state's effort to reposition New Jersey's economy for long-term growth.  We enthusiastically accept Senator Lesniak's wisdom. 

            If you think you have seen more of NJLRA lately, it's because we have increased efforts to get our message out.  In 2010 we re-launched our website, where you can find any of the eight op-eds I authored over the past year.  NJLRA has also been the focus of several news stories and has written a dozen letters to-the-editor.  I encourage you to visit NJLRA's Blog and Facebook page.  You can also follow us on Twitter

We continue to make an effort to reach out to New Jersey's small business community.  A recent poll we conducted in conjunction with the Monmouth University Polling Institute suggests that many of the Garden State's small businesses feel vulnerable to abusive lawsuits.  We are hoping to articulate the unique needs of New Jersey's small business community as we meet with legislators across the state. 

      As we have said in the past, New Jersey cannot recover from this recession without sound policies that support job growth.  With limited resources to fund tax breaks or business incentives, legal reform offers policymakers in Trenton a revenue-neutral policy change that can send a very strong message to employers all across the nation.  States which have enacted tort reform, including Texas, now lead the country in job growth and physician retention. 

            Thank you again for your continued support.  I am confident that we will continue our path toward reforming New Jersey's civil justice laws in 2011.  Please save the date for NJLRA's first Membership Meeting of 2011, which will be held on Tuesday, March 8th at noon at the Trenton Country Club.  We will discuss our plans for 2011.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vote in NJLRA’s Most Obnoxious Lawsuit of 2010 Poll

 

The contenders:

 

A teen intentionally drives her car into oncoming traffic, killing a pregnant mom and her 13-year-old son - and then sues the surviving family members for her 'mental anguish';

A drunk New Jersey man drives crashes his motorcycle into a car, and then sues the bar for his injuries;

A customer spills hot tea on herself and sues Starbucks;

A fast food restaurant manager sues McDonald's for making him fat.

Click here to cast your vote!

In case you missed it...

Some obnoxious lawsuit highlights from earlier this year:

Manager of a McDonald’s restaurant in Brazil sues the company for making him fat – and wins.  $17,500 for his weight gain. 

In a failed suicide attempt, a Montana teenager deliberately drives her car into oncoming traffic, killing a pregnant mother and her 13-year-old son who were on their way home from a chorale concert – and the teenage driver had the audacity to sue the family’s estate for ‘mental anguish’ and potential lost earnings, among other things. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Texas pursues the Holy Grail of Tort Reform

Twenty-three counties lacked an E.R. doctor.  Ten counties lacked an OB-GYN.  No, this is not a third world country: it was Texas, prior to tort reform. 

The Wall Street Journal calls the pre-reformed Texas a “holy place on the tort bar pilgrimage,” that has now morphed into a “Mecca for doctors.”  Incentives didn’t hurt, either, and Texas now leads the country in job creation.  Product liability, class-action certification, and noneconomic damage caps were reformed in 2003 and 2005.  Now, according to the Journal, Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to extend his state’s tort reform successes – British style.  It’s a thinly-veiled deterrent to filing frivolous lawsuits, which drive up business costs and drive down economic growth. 

The “loser pays” concept isn’t a new one.  The purest-form version of “loser pays” is that the losing party picks up the attorney’s tab.  The proposed caveat would impose a penalty on the losing firm which files the case, forcing trial lawyers to think twice before filing questionable claims. 

Governor Perry is also calling for “new legal channels” to expedite claims below $100,000, but details about this proposal aren’t readily available. 

It sounds like Texas might be headed in the right direction.  It begs the question: if Texas can entice doctors, why can’t New Jersey?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Read NJLRA’s op-ed in The Record

Small businesses have historically played a crucial role in getting the workforce back on track after economic disarray, and in New Jersey, they have served a crucial cultural purpose as well. The fact that nearly one-in-five small businesses has seriously considered leaving New Jersey should set off alarms.

FOR MANY OF US it may be hard to conceptualize, but there was a time in New Jersey’s recent history when our state was a beacon for the American Dream instead of a disincentive to it.

An abundance of natural resources, an educated workforce and low business costs made the Garden State ripe for the mom-and-pop shops and diners that at one time penetrated nearly every Main Street across the state.

Read NJLRA’s op-ed today in The Record.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Jersey’s still a relative “Hellhole”

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) released its annual “Judicial Hellholes” report for 2010/2011.  Marcus Rayner spoke with NJ 101.5 about how this reputation continues to stifle economic growth in our state, and particularly impacts New Jersey’s job-wielding pharmaceutical industry

An excerpt:

Marcus Rayner, Executive Director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, explains why the report specifically names Atlantic County. He says the New Jersey Supreme Court has chosen to consolidate the Mass Tort litigation in the pharmaceutical industry in Atlantic County under one judge, Judge Carol Higbee, who has experience here. Unfortunately, her rulings have been inconsistent and often against he pharmaceutical industry." 

Rosetta Key’s report can be found on 101.5’s website.  The Hellhole report can be found on ATRA’s website. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Labor, business leaders support civil justice reform

Njseed

 

NJLRA's executive director, Marcus Rayner (2nd from left), with NJBIA Vice-President Christine Stearns, New Jersey Petroleum Council President Jim Benton, and Scott Ross, also of the New Jersey Petroleum Council.  

 

Litigation abuse drives up business costs and inhibits job growth, according to the New Jersey Society for Environmental, Economic Development (NJ SEED).  The organization, which is a broad coalition of New Jersey’s business and labor leaders, say that a vibrant life science industry is key to growing New Jersey’s economy. 

In its 2010-2011 State Issues Briefing book, “Mapping Our Way to Prosperity,” NJ SEED argues that preserving New Jersey’s status as the “medicine chest of the world” is critical, and tort reform – particularly cracking down on litigation tourism – is sorely needed by the $30 billion life science industry.  While New Jersey remains a key location for 24 of the world’s 30 largest pharmaceutical giants, weak civil justice laws have helped give momentum to Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, California, and Indiana, which threaten to outpace the Garden State’s industry growth. 

A decline in the life sciences industry would pose a significant strain on New Jersey’s economy.   According to the report, New Jersey’s life sciences currently do the following:

  • Provide more than 211,000 jobs, directly or indirectly, throughout the state;
  • Spend more than $1.5 billion annually in capital construction projects throughout New Jersey;
  • Spend nearly $8 billion annually on research and development;
  • Award over $4.6 million in vendor contracts to local businesses; and
  • Give more than $210 million in philanthropic contributions to cultural, nonprofit, and educational organizations throughout the state.

A copy of NJ SEED’s briefing book is typically shared with the Governor, members of the Legislature, and other policy leaders in New Jersey. Let’s hope they heed the call for civil justice reform on page 46. 

 Click here to read the full report and learn more about NJ SEED.  

Sunday, December 12, 2010

There’s some good stuff here,

but where is the tort reform?

Politicker NJ: Senate releases ‘toolkit for business’ bills

TRENTON – The senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved the release of some economic stimulus bills, part of a 30-bill packet fast-tracked by the Democratic majority as a foil to Gov. Chris Christie’s municipal toolkit.

Read it here.   

Friday, December 10, 2010

Legislative Update

Legislative action was taken this week on the following bills of interest to the civil justice community:


A-3304: Clarifies that the effective date of the False Claims Act is retroactive, pertaining to allegations dating back to March 1998. 
Released by Assembly Judiciary Committee, 4 (Y) 2 (N) 1 (A)

 

S-2405: Removes the statute of limitations in certain civil cases and expands potential liability.

Released by Senate Judiciary Committee, 9 (Y) 0 (N)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A-3304 will be up in the Assembly Judiciary Committee tomorrow

NJLRA opposes A-3304, which would make the 2008 False Claims Act apply retroactively to alleged offenses occurring over a decade ago, to March 1998. 

A lot can happen in nearly 13 years.  Companies change. Employees change.  Exonerating evidence is harder to come by. 

But this bill doesn’t take any of that into consideration.  Instead, one who files suit against under the False Claims Act against a company, no matter how big or small, could be holding New Jersey’s employers responsible for a 13-year-old alleged offense at a time when job creation is sorely needed. 

Friday, December 03, 2010

How a ticket can make you a prime target for legal solicitors, and one bill you’ll love

NJLRA’s executive director was recently issued a speeding ticket.  Marcus was soon flooded with letters from lawyers across New Jersey seeking to represent him. 

James Osborne of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports about new legislation, sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), which would require lawyers and other professionals to wait a minimum of 30 days before contacting accident victims and those accused of motor vehicle violations, whose information can be easily acquired from a search of public records. 

Click here to read the article.  The full text of S-2316 can be found here