140 posts categorized "Legislation"

Friday, March 28, 2014

NJCJI’s Crash Course in Civil Justice Reform a Success

On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, NJCJI hosted a training session on civil justice reform for legislative staff, government affairs professionals, and other interested parties. The event featured remarks from NJCJI staff, practicing attorneys, and the business community, all focusing on what civil justice reform actually is and why it is important.

Continue reading "NJCJI’s Crash Course in Civil Justice Reform a Success" »

The Legislative Trend That’s Increasing Your Liability: Fee-Shifting

Fee-shifting provisions are showing up in proposed legislation in New Jersey with increasing frequency. These provisions, which allow prevailing plaintiffs to recover attorney’s fees and court costs, encourage frivolous litigation, discourage settlement, and drive up the cost of lawsuits.

Continue reading "The Legislative Trend That’s Increasing Your Liability: Fee-Shifting" »

Thursday, February 06, 2014

New Economic Analysis of FDA’s Proposed Generic Drug Labeling Rule Released

The New Jersey Civil Justice Institute has been closely monitoring the FDA’s proposed rules that would allow generic drug manufacturers to make changes to their labels. NJCJI is concerned that such a rule would greatly increase the number of lawsuits filed against generic pharmaceutical manufacturers thus raising the cost of generic drugs and clogging up the court system.

Continue reading "New Economic Analysis of FDA’s Proposed Generic Drug Labeling Rule Released " »

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 25-31

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 25-31, 2014.

 

Opinion: Background Checks - ‘Ban the Box’ is Not the Answer

Jon Bramnick|The Record

As Americans, we believe in giving people a “second chance.” The proposed “Ban the Box” legislation is not the answer to the problem of a job applicant with a criminal history.

 

Imagine you are looking to hire someone to care for your elderly mother. That person will be alone with her and will have access to her home and her possessions.

 

After receiving applications for the job, you discover that one of the applicants has a criminal history of assault and theft. One would presumably be concerned about hiring that person to assist your mother.

 

You may not have a choice if “Ban the Box” legislation is enacted.

Full Story.

 

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 25-31" »

Session Scorecard

Though the 216th Session of the New Jersey Legislature has just started, a number of bills of interest to NJCJI have already been filed. Click here to view the Session Scorecard and check back often as we will keep it updated throughout the session with the status of bills we both support and oppose.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 18-24

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 18-24, 2014.

How to Sue Over the Christie Bridge Scandal and Win

John Culhane | Slate

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tries to recover from the fallout for his administration’s participation in the vindictive decision to close lanes and snarl traffic on the George Washington Bridge for five days, he will get no help from lawsuits brought by angry citizens stuck in the mess. The first suit has already dropped. These claims will surely breed others. They could keep the story alive for years. And they could even result, unusually, in personal liability for the officials involved, including, perhaps, the governor himself.

Full Story.

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 18-24" »

Friday, January 17, 2014

2014 Legislative Agenda

New Jersey’s businesses face a stagnant economy coupled with high business costs, but our members know that New Jersey’s economy is taking another serious hit – from excessive litigation. During the 2014 legislative session the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute will advocate for legislation that ensures that New Jersey's civil justice system treats all parties fairly and discourages lawsuit abuse.

Continue reading "2014 Legislative Agenda" »

Good Samaritan Bill Passes Unanimously, Awaits Governor’s Signature

As the previous legislative session wound down, the Senate voted 36-0 in favor of an important piece of legislation that would grant immunity from liability for certain professional services rendered during emergencies.

Continue reading "Good Samaritan Bill Passes Unanimously, Awaits Governor’s Signature" »

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 13-17

 

Here's Who's Behind The Huge Civil Lawsuit From The Chris Christie Bridge Scandal

Brett LoGiurato | Business Insider

Four-hour delays. Late for work. Lost wages. Late for crucial doctor's appointments.

Some of these alleged hardships are at the heart of a proposed class-action complaint in the burgeoning George Washington Bridge scandal. The complaint was filed last Thursday, the day after new revelations tying the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the lane closures.

Full Story.

 

Chris Christie hires law firm to review administration's role in 'Bridgegate'

By Statehouse Bureau | Asbury Park Press

A former federal prosecutor will head up an internal review by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie of his staff’s involvement with the politically motivated lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013.

The administration this morning announced the hiring of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm and specifically Randy Mastro to assist both with the review and an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into the closings, which snarled traffic for four days in Fort Lee.

Full Story.

 

Bridge scandal: Chris Christie's Nominees Delayed

By Jenna Portnoy | The Star-Ledger

The ongoing scandal over George Washington Bridge lane closures is having more ripple effects through Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

The Republican governor has put on hold his plan to nominate John Hoffman, his acting attorney general, to the state Superior Court. The move comes as the nomination of Christie’s chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, is also in a holding pattern.

Full Story.

 

Judge Questions Whether $765 NFL Concussions Settlement is Enough

Cindy Boren | Washington Post

A federal judge in Philadelphia issued a preliminary rejection of a $765 million settlement of concussion claims by more than 4,500 former NFL players on Tuesday, ruling that the amount agreed upon may be insufficient to cover payouts, medical tests and treatments.

Full Story.

 

Will Consumer Class Actions vs. Target Survive?

By Alison Frankel | Reuters

Who doesn't empathize with the 70 million Target customers whose private information was supposedly hacked?

No one likes to worry about identity theft and impaired credit ratings, the odds of which, according to Reuters, drastically increase for data breach victims. But that doesn't mean Target customers have a cause of action in federal court.

Full Story.

 

Litigation Finance Firm Raises $260 Million for New Fund

By William Alden | New York Times DealBook

An upstart investment firm that bets on lawsuits has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for its second fund.

The firm, Gerchen Keller Capital, is expected to announce on Monday that it has amassed about $260 million for the fund, bringing its total investor commitments to $310 million. The fresh capital, coming less than a year after Gerchen Keller opened its doors, underscores investors’ confidence in an obscure corner of Wall Street that has gained adherents in recent years.

Litigation finance, as the business is known, often involves bankrolling plaintiffs in exchange for a slice of the lawsuit’s potential winnings.

Full Story.

 

Corporate Takeover? In 2013, a Lawsuit Almost Always Followed

By Steven M. Davidoff | New York Times DealBook

These days, you can be sure that when a company announces it is being acquired, it will also be sued by a bevy of plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Full Story.

 

N.J. Senate Confirms Robert Hanna as Superior Court Judge

By Alexi Friedman | Star-Ledger

As Gov. Chris Christie’s choice for state Supreme Court judge, Robert Hanna waited a year for a confirmation hearing that never came. Senate Democrats blocked his selection and another Christie nominee to fill a different seat on the high court, fearing they would cause partisan imbalance.

Full Story.

 

Ceremony for Newest N.J. Justice, Fernandez-Vina, Set for Friday

By Salvador Rizzo | The Star-Ledger

The newest associate justice on the state Supreme Court, Faustino Fernandez-Vina, will be sworn in Friday in a ceremony at Rutgers University in Camden, the court announced today.

Fernandez-Vina, a Republican who was appointed last year by Gov. Chris Christie, joined the court Nov. 19 and has been hearing cases already.

Full Story.

 

BP Appeal to Stop 'Fictitious' U.S. Oil Spill Claims Fails

By Reuters

One of BP's attempts to curb payouts for what it says are "fictitious" and "absurd" claims related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has failed after a legal appeal was rejected by a U.S. court.

Full Story.

 

Bill Protecting Rescue Squads from Lawsuits Hits a Dead End with Change of Legislative Session

By MaryAnn Spoto | The Star-Ledger

A bill protecting rescue squads from civil lawsuits stopped dead in its tracks Tuesday after the legislative session ended without the state Senate voting on the measure.

Full Story.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Legislative Update

Opportunity to Compete Act / "Ban the Box" A-3837

NJLRA Opposes

Status: Second Reading in Assembly

The Assembly Labor Committee advanced legislation on 12/16 which would prohibit employers from asking about a job applicant's criminal history until after the candidate has received a conditional offer of employment.  Only then could the employer conduct a background check or ask whether the person had ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.  If the applicant does have a criminal record, A-3837 restricts what types of crime can warrant rescinding that job offer. 

NJLRA is concerned that this legislation will expose businesses to liability.  Its companion bill, S-2586, has been referred to the Senate Labor Committee. 

 

Economic Opportunity Act II S-3030

NJLRA Supports

Status: Withdrawn from Consideration

The Economic Opportunity Act II of 2013 included a provision to cap appeal bonds at $50 million, which has been sought by the business community for years.  It advanced through the Senate Economic Growth Committee and was second referenced to the Senate Budget Committee before being withdrawn from consideration. 

 

"Good Samaritan Act" A-3694

NJLRA Supports

Status: Posted for Assembly vote on 12/19

Hundreds of licensed architects and engineers headed to parts of Alabama following their devastating tornados in 2011, contributing thousands of hours in pro-bono inspections.  What made Alabama's hospitality possible is a Good Samaritan Law which protects such volunteers from frivolous litigation.  A-3694 would allow New Jersey to welcome the same volunteerism during future natural disasters

See: One year after Sandy, a bill to welcome Good Samaritans in New Jersey

Monday, October 28, 2013

One year after Sandy, a bill to welcome Good Samaritans in New Jersey

When natural disasters strike, indiscriminate in wrath and sometimes unprecedented in destruction, at least one fact generally applies: volunteers are needed to help recover and rebuild

Hundreds of licensed architects and engineers headed to parts of Alabama following their devastating tornados in 2011, contributing thousands of hours in pro-bono inspections.  And Assembly Majority Lou Greenwald is hoping that legislation he introduced in Sandy's aftermath will allow New Jersey to welcome the same volunteerism during future natural disasters

What made Alabama's hospitality possible is a Good Samaritan Law which protects such volunteers from frivolous litigation.  Greenwald's bill, A-3694, would provide immunity to licensed architects and engineers who volunteer at the scene of a declared emergency at the request of authorities. 

Greenwald is hoping to advance the measure during the lame-duck session.  It has been referred to the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee and is cosponsored by Assemblywomen Handlin and Jasey. 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Diegnan/Gill legislation revising shareholder class action lawsuits, A-3123, is signed into law

Legislation which revises the law concerning derivative proceedings and shareholder class action lawsuits was signed into law by Governor Christie.  It was part of a package of bills sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) and Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex)to advance economic-growth initiatives as recommended by the Corporate and Business Law Study Commission. 

A derivative action is a suit brought by a small or minority shareholder against the corporation’s management or directors.  A-3123 establishes a minimum value of shares one needs in order to file such a suit.  It would also amend the parameters under which such a suit may be filed, allowing corporations to avoid unnecessary litigation and costs. 

Assemblyman Diegnan said this legislation would make New Jersey “even more attractive for businesses looking to set up shop or expand their presence in the state,” calling it a “common-sense update to our corporate business law to show that New Jersey is truly ‘open for business’” [read statement].

This sentiment was echoed by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) a cosponsor:

"With fierce competition on all sides from our neighboring states, we must seize any advantage that will help make New Jersey an even more attractive place in which to do business,”  he said.   

NJCJI thanks Governor Christie for signing A-3123, as well as the sponsors and cosponsors for addressing this issue. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Lacking support, S-2460 held by Senate Commerce Committee

The so-called 'bad faith' bill was held by the Senate Commerce Committee, due to a lack of support. 

 

Bad faith bill is bad policy for New Jersey

 

Read NJCJI's position here

Thursday, February 28, 2013

'Bad faith' bill is bad policy for New Jersey

S-2460, the covertly dubbed “Consumer Protection Act of 2012,” is a new lease on trial lawyers’ attempt to create a new cause of action for ‘bad faith’ (S-766/A-3434).

That bill, S-2460, is now scheduled for a hearing on Monday, March 4th, in the Senate Commerce Committee. 

Proponents argue that this bill will help policyholders who have been affected by Superstorm Sandy by codifying existing case law, protecting their right to sue insurance companies who fail to pay claims to which they are entitled.  In reality, it adds uncertainty and greater consumer costs to New Jersey's homeowners' insurance market:
  • Very few victims of Sandy will be helped.  Those who lacked flood coverage, had inadequate coverage limits, or could not afford their deductible could not file suit under this bill.
  • Policyholders would be able to recover damages in excess of the terms of their insurance contract.  In addition, they would be able to file for attorneys' fees, court costs, and prejudgment interest dating to the time the suit was filed.   
  • All New Jersey insurance customers, including businesses which purchase commercial insurance, will pay higher insurance premiums as a result.

And as we noted last month, many of us opt for lower premiums in exchange for higher deductibles.  Others quickly sign on the dotted line and hope we never meet the devil lurking in the details.  But when the worst happens, as many New Jerseyans experienced late last year, customers expect their insurer to cover their losses as defined in their coverage. 

New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. (NJM) CEO Bernie Flynn told a legislative committee last month that they expect payouts to reach $300 million.  State Farm has made a point of expediting their 30,000 Sandy-related claims.  On some occasions, however, an insurer may fail to live up to their end of the agreement and deny payment to a customer.  New Jersey consumers are able to file suit against their insurer in these instances.  But recently reintroduced legislation threatens to add more bureaucracy and litigation into an already stressed civil justice system. 

S-2460, the covertly dubbed “Consumer Protection Act of 2012,” is a new lease on trial lawyers’ attempt to create a new cause of action for ‘bad faith’ (S-766/A-3434).  It wouldn’t simply codify existing case law with respect to ‘bad faith;’ rather, a court would only need to find that an insurer acted ‘unreasonably’ in order to win a bad faith case, adding subjectivity and the potential for awards beyond one’s coverage. 

Acting Department of Banking and Insurance commissioner Kenneth Kobylowski noted that New Jersey’s strong homeowners’ insurance market had rates near the national average despite having property values among the highest in the country. 

"To have average premiums in the middle of the marketplace is just a testament to how stable, how competitive and how well-run our homeowners' market is," he told NJ BIZ

But if the cost of doing business increases for New Jersey’s insurance industry, we can all expect our premiums to rise. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bill granting civil immunity to ambulatory, rescue, and first aid squads advances

S-2165 received the unanimous approval of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.  Under current law, only the officers and members of first aid, ambulance or rescue squads have civil immunity; not the entities themselves.  This bill clarifies that the entities, as well as the officers and members are not liable for any civil damages as the result of an act or the omission of an act committed while in training for or in the rendering of intermediate life support services in good faith. Its companion bill, A-3282, passed the Assembly Health and Senior Services committee with bipartisan support in January. 

S-2165 is sponsored by Senator Kip Bateman (R-Somerset).  Its assembly sponsors include Assemblymen Eric Peterson (R-Hunterdon), Anthony Bucco (R-Morris), and Herb Conaway (D-Burlington).  The measure awaits full legislative approval in each house. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Subway is the latest example of why NJ's Consumer Fraud Act needs fixing

We can tell you that New Jersey’s courtrooms are among the nation’s easiest in which to file a ridiculous lawsuit, but sometimes the weaknesses of the NJCFA speak for themselves. 

Two New Jersey residents contend that the size of their ‘footlong’ sub from Subway fell short of twelve inches.  And with a straight face, they were able to file a lawsuit under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act with ease.  Their lawyer is seeking class-action status on behalf of everyone who’s purchased one and meets the criteria. 

A recent NJ BIZ article (Advocates hope bill takes bite out of N.J. fraud law / Jared Kaltwasser, 2/4/13)) examines a possible remedy for the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Craig Coughlin.  A-3264 has been referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

A-1831 unanimously clears Assembly Health Panel

In our ongoing quest to keep good doctors practicing in New Jersey, NJLRA supported A-1831 before the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, which advanced it with bipartisan support.

If enacted, A-1831 would help lower liability insurance premiums, which is frequently cited as a key reason for New Jersey’s so-called medical brain drain.  Insurance premiums begin to increase the moment a lawsuit is filed.  This bill would prevent insurance carriers from raising liability premiums based on a claim of medical practice, unless the physician is found liable in court.  It would also prohibit insurers from increasing liability premiums in certain charitable or emergency situations. 

A-1831 is an important first step to help reverse the public crisis of doctors fleeing our state, which is expected to worsen significantly in the next few years.  

Practicing specialized medicine in New Jersey is comparatively difficult for recent medical school graduates.  In addition to their student loans, new doctors must bear New Jersey’s high cost of liability insurance premiums.  Specialties which carry some of the highest premiums, including obstetrics and gynecology, disproportionately impact New Jersey women.  It is no longer cost effective for many existing OBGYNs in New Jersey to deliver babies, and many have stopped doing so altogether. 

We thank the committee and Chairman Conaway for their advancement of this measure. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Assembly Health Committee to hear medical liability reform measure

The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee is scheduled to hear A-1831 on Thursday, marking an important step toward addressing deep concerns about the cost of liability insurance within the medical community.   

Sponsored by Chairman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), A-1831 would prevent insurance carriers from raising liability premiums based on a claim of medical practice, unless the physician is found liable in court, and would prohibit insurers from increasing liability premiums in certain charitable or emergency situations. 

This legislation would also provide civil immunity to healthcare professionals who volunteer their services in good faith.  Civil immunity would be available to volunteer healthcare professionals who do not have an active provider-patient at the time of the emergency.  As our population outpaces the number of physicians we need to adequately care for the health of New Jersey residents, volunteer healthcare professionals will become increasingly important.  By offering civil immunity to these volunteer medical personnel, A-1831 takes a step toward addressing our New Jersey’s public health needs. 

Practicing specialized medicine in New Jersey is comparatively difficult for recent medical school graduates.  In addition to their student loans, new doctors must bear New Jersey’s high cost of liability insurance premiums.  Specialties which carry some of the highest premiums, including obstetrics and gynecology, disproportionately impact New Jersey women.  It is no longer cost effective for many existing OBGYNs in New Jersey to deliver babies, and many have stopped doing so altogether.  It’s not just a matter of addressing a significant healthcare cost-driver; it’s also about ensuring that New Jersey residents – especially women – have access to medical care.   

The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. in committee room 16.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bad faith bill reintroduced

Superstorm Sandy did something few insurance brokers could do: it forced homeowners to, in some cases, read their insurance policies for the first time. 

Many of us opt for lower premiums in exchange for higher deductibles.  Others quickly sign on the dotted line and hope we never meet the devil lurking in the details.  But when the worst happens, as many New Jerseyans experienced late last year, customers expect their insurer to cover their losses as defined in their coverage. 

New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. (NJM) CEO Bernie Flynn told a legislative committee last month that they expect payouts to reach $300 million.  State Farm has made a point of expediting their 30,000 Sandy-related claims.  On some occasions, however, an insurer may fail to live up to their end of the agreement and deny payment to a customer.  New Jersey consumers are able to file suit against their insurer in these instances.  But recently reintroduced legislation threatens to add more bureaucracy and litigation into an already stressed civil justice system. 

S-2460, the covertly dubbed “Consumer Protection Act of 2012,” is a new lease on trial lawyers’ attempt to create a new cause of action for ‘bad faith’ (S-766/A-3434).  It wouldn’t simply codify existing case law with respect to ‘bad faith;’ rather, a court would only need to find that an insurer acted ‘unreasonably’ in order to win a bad faith case, adding subjectivity and the potential for awards beyond one’s coverage. 

Acting Department of Banking and Insurance commissioner Kenneth Kobylowski noted that New Jersey’s strong homeowners’ insurance market had rates near the national average despite having property values among the highest in the country. 

"To have average premiums in the middle of the marketplace is just a testament to how stable, how competitive and how well-run our homeowners' market is," he told NJ BIZ

But if the cost of doing business increases for New Jersey’s insurance industry, we can all expect our premiums to rise. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Legislative Update - The "Facebook bill"

S-1915, which prohibits employers and prospective employers from requesting access to workers’ social networking accounts, was passed by the full Senate.  While NJLRA applauds the sponsors’ intent to protect employees’ privacy, the Senate did not amend Section 5 which would give current and prospective employees new grounds to sue businesses. 

NJLRA supported removing this clause.  Casual conversation over the mere existence of a social networking page with a subordinate, for instance, would become a thing of the past. Forgetting that could cost employers tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees – and it also gives the disgruntled ex-employee or the unqualified job applicant unprecedented leverage over their employer.   

Previous post.

Friday, September 21, 2012

NJ is Treacherous Ground for Physicians: A Panel Discussion

Ten years ago the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) worked hard to enact meaningful medical liability reform in New Jersey.  Since then, court decisions have gutted key statutes and insurance premiums have skyrocketed.  We are now on the brink of a severe doctor shortage as other states enact liability reform and attract new physicians. 

MSNJ will be hosting a panel discussion on Thursday, September 27th with leading legislative and legal experts to discuss what can be done to combat the unique issues facing New Jersey’s doctors and their impact on public health. 

To register for this free event, please click here to visit the Medical Society’s website

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Register for NJLRA’s Annual Fall Membership Luncheon!

With fall just around the corner, it’s time to register for NJLRA’s annual Fall Membership Luncheon!  This year’s speaker will be Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr.  It will take place on Thursday, September 13th at noon at the Trenton Country Club.

Time flies, so register today! 

 Click here to register online.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Protecting volunteers may expand healthcare in Trenton, NJ

As our nation continues to debate health insurance mandates and cost-drivers that left preventative medicine out of reach for many, volunteer doctors quietly set up shop in some of New Jersey’s most underserved communities, trying to alleviate public health burdens on a patient-by-patient basis. 

Trenton is one of these communities.  In a Trenton Times report earlier this week, City Health Officer James Brownlee explained that years of funding cuts forced its clinics to greatly reduce the services they could offer. 

But there may be light at the end of the tunnel.  And that light is federal “free clinic” status.

According to the Times, such a designation would provide “essential malpractice insurance for a new staff of volunteer doctors, nurses, and other professionals who have retired from local hospitals,” bringing with it an opportunity for clinics to begin expanding their outreach once again.   

Medical liability insurance is routinely cited by New Jersey’s medical community as a disincentive for doctors to practice in the Garden State.  Such premiums, particularly for OB-GYNs, are significantly higher than premiums in other states. 

New Jersey faces a doctor shortage by the end of the decade if we simply do nothing.  Physicians who volunteer a portion of their retirement to continue treating patients help close a gap that we have yet to fill – a gap that will only increase as the number of physicians per capita decreases. 

Some aren’t convinced that assuaging doctors’ concerns about medical liability insurance increases access to care.  But in some of Trenton’s most underserved neighborhoods, it’s clear that it may make a world of difference.    

Assemblyman Herb Conaway is the sponsor of A-2178, which would provide civil immunity for certain volunteer physicians, nonprofit clinics, and federally qualified health centers.  It was second-referenced to the Assembly Judiciary Committee after passing favorably from the Health and Senior Services Committee in May.  Chairman Peter Barnes has not indicated whether he will post it for a vote. 

The bill’s Senate counterpart, S-1165, has the bipartisan support of Senators Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Diane Allen (R-Burlington). 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Christie, Romney, and Legal Reform

Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick.  This means Governor Christie officially belongs to New Jersey for at least another 16 months. 

With movement on pension and education reform, legal reform and medical liability reform may rise on the Governor’s agenda.  The need for legal reform has grown more apparent in recent months as studies confirmed that New Jersey will face a shortage of physicians by the end of the decade.  The State Senate unanimously passed legislation authorizing DHSS to convene a summit to analyze the shortage’s implications for New Jersey residents; its Assembly counterpart, A-1828, awaits action by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Have a happy, safe, and lawsuit-free 4th of July from NJLRA!

Red light cameras proponents say such cameras at intersections make our roads safer, deterring motorists from running them and causing serious accidents.  But many New Jersey motorists and taxpayers criticize them as being unfair for failing to take justifiable conditions into consideration, a fundraiser for cash-strapped government entities, a great way to get rear-ended by tailgaters, if not all of the above. 

Two South Jersey residents filed the first putative class-action lawsuit against Cherry Hill Township last month.  They say that yellow signals are too short at such intersections, in violation of regulations set by the Legislature in 2008, and a refund is issued to drivers.  The refunds would be administered by a court-supervised program.  It’s unclear how much (if anything) individual motorists would reclaim once attorneys’ fees and administrative costs are calculated. 

Read more in the New Jersey Law Journal.   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

“Ambulance-chaser” bills advance

On Monday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced legislation to prevent accident reports from being made available to the general public for 90 days following an accident.  Such reports are often aggressively sought by trial lawyers, which prompted Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz to dub the legislation, A-801, the “ambulance chaser bill.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a similar measure on Thursday, which would bar solicitation for 30 days following an accident.  S-761 is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari

According to a report by Michael Booth in the New Jersey Law Journal, constituents often expressed concern to the legislators after receiving pieces of mail from attorneys referencing their “upcoming court case.”   The current Assembly version of the bill would require the word “advertisement” to be included on such mailers, in capital letters.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

NJ Needs Class Action Reform - Support A894 in AJU Committee on Monday!

A894, sponsored by Assemblymen Chuisano and Wisniewski, would allow defendants to appeal a class action certification immediately. This means that defendants who believe the court made a mistake will not have to incur the time and expense of going to trial only to have to do it all over again because the class certification was erroneous from the start.

Learn more about A894 and how it would affect class action lawsuits and New Jersey's economy here.  

Please support A894 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday, 5/21, at 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 12

Committee members:

Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes, III (D18), Chair 

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D20), Vice Chair  

Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo (D28) 

Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D37) 

Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D27) 

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R25) 

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R39) 

New Jersey Needs Class Action Reform. Support A-894

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Co$t of bullying

Many of New Jersey’s school districts have maintained that New Jersey’s bipartisan anti-bullying law, while well-intentioned, is a costly unfunded mandate.  A state panel agreed, which prompted the law’s sponsors and Governor Christie to allocate $1 million to the state’s local school districts in order to help them pay for staffing and training. 

As the Gloucester County Times pointed out in an editorial earlier this month, $1 million spread over 612 school districts isn’t likely to quell the districts’ concerns regarding the law’s cost. 

And as NJLRA points out in a letter-to-the-editor, with so many bureaucratic nuisances, litigation is all but assured. 

“It ought to be possible to have an effective anti-bullying strategy in each of our schools without breaking anyone’s bank,” the GC Times wrote.

New Jersey needs a strong anti-bullying law. But with respect to this particular law, the bleeding has only begun.

Read NJLRA’s letter here

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Auto insurance reform worked. Why not legal reform? #legalreform @lougreenwald #nj

Ewing-20120410-00088There was a time when auto insurance premiums topped New Jerseyans’ list of complaints about life in the Garden State.  Today, a decade after comprehensive reform, it doesn’t crack the top ten. 

Noting the growth of NJCJI and our affiliates since our inception in 2007, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald suggested legal reform could follow a similar course in New Jersey. 

New Jersey’s small businesses, particularly those located in Southern New Jersey, have experienced increased financial strain from rising liability insurance over the past few years.  Municipal governments are also feeling the effect of an overheated culture of litigation.   Irrespective of the merits or outcome, taxpayers foot the bill when a lawsuit is filed against local governments.  It’s not exactly the kind of investment one hopes for with his or her property tax bill. 

Click here for a list of active, bipartisan legislation which can improve New Jersey’s civil justice climate for taxpayers, businesses of all sizes, and the medical community and their patients. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Touting tort reform before business

Read Andrew Kitchenman’s story in NJ BIZ about the prospect for lawsuit reform this year:

 

Marcus Rayner HeadshotAdvocates of lawsuit reform are touting the possibility of significant bills to reform the state's laws governing class action and consumer fraud cases, signaling what may become the biggest opening for changes since the 1990s.

A pair of bills introduced this session would limit the cost to post bonds for corporations that are appealing judgments, and would allow the subjects of class-action lawsuits to directly appeal the determination that a "class" exists.


The state's most prominent lawsuit reform advocate may be Marcus Rayner, president of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, which launched in 2007 to bolster lobbying on tort reform and related issues.

Rayner said the political climate is shaping up to be good for the bills.

"I think the business community has been impressed with this legislative leadership's interest with helping," along with that of Gov. Chris Christie, Rayner said.

Rayner said tort reforms in other states — including North Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas — increased pressure on New Jersey.

"A climate of excess litigation drives up the costs for everybody, from the business owner to the consumer," he said.

Read full story.

Monday, February 13, 2012

NJLRA Applauds Passage of Bill Requiring Study of NJ’s Looming Physician Shortage

The State Senate unanimously passed S-173, sponsored by Senator Robert Singer, which would require the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to conduct a study of New Jersey’s looming doctor shortage. 

“The New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals warned us in 2010 that New Jersey will be short nearly 3,000 doctors by 2022 if preventative measures are not taken,” said Marcus Rayner, executive director of the Alliance. “This is on top of the current 12% gap between physician supply and demand.

“It’s encouraging that the Legislature is taking this issue seriously and trying to avert a crisis situation.

“New Jersey’s doctors, especially those in high-risk specialties, carry some of the highest liability insurance premiums in the country.  It is becoming harder for the average physician to undertake the expense of practicing in New Jersey when so many other states have enacted cost-saving liability reform during the past several years.

If enacted, S-173 would convene a strategic planning summit of stakeholders.   The Department would be required to report findings and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature six months after enactment. 

The legislation was approved by a vote of 40 – 0.  It awaits action by the General Assembly. 

Friday, February 03, 2012

New this week…

Assemblyman Herb Conaway, chair of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, reintroduced legislation granting civil immunity for certain volunteer physicians, nonprofit clinics, and federally qualified health centers. 

A volunteer physician is defined in this bill, A-2178, as a physician who is retired but maintains licensed and is not receiving compensation for patient care. 

New Jersey is projected to be short by nearly 3,000 physicians by the end of the decade.  Medical specialties, including OB-GYNs, are expected to be among the hardest hit.  By protecting volunteer physicians, nonprofit clinics, and federally qualified health centers – acting in good faith – from liability, A-2178 would remove a significant disincentive to practice in areas in which there is high demand for such services. 

Assemblyman Conaway is also the sponsor of A-1806, which would accomplish similar objectives and reverse the 2010 New Jersey Supreme Court decision in Ryan v. Renny.  The decision gutted the state’s affidavit of merit statute

Friday, January 20, 2012

Prefiled Civil Justice Bills

The following pieces of legislation were prefiled for introduction for the new legislative session, which officially began on January 10th.   Please contact NJLRA if you would like additional information about any of the following:

Summary

New Bill #

Old Bill #

Sponsors

Extends $50 million cap on appeal bonds in civil actions to all industries in New Jersey

A241

A2473

Schaer, McKeon

Permits litigants contesting class certification the right to immediately appeal that ruling. 

A894

A4135

Chiusano, Wisniewski

Caps noneconomic damages in medical malpractice actions at $250,000.

A966

A1367/S610

Weber, Chiusano, McHose

Establishes a medical malpractice part in the Superior Court.

A1689

A260

Russo

Concerns liability in good faith treatment cases, standards of care, insurance coverage for medical malpractice actions and also sets time limits on medical malpractice claims being filed.

A1806

A1982/S670

Conaway, O'Scanlon, Weber, Handlin, McHose, Angelini, Riley, Huttle, Chiusano

Establishes limits for certain damages in medical malpractice actions.

A1926

A1806/S1844

Casagrande

 

Monday, January 09, 2012

Item of note: last day of the 2010-2011 voting session

A-3304, which NJLRA opposes, is scheduled for consideration by the full Assembly today.  If enacted, this legislation would make the 2008 False Claims Act retroactively applicable to alleged offenses occurring up to 14 years ago, from March 1998.

A lot can happen in nearly 14 years.  Companies change. Employees change.  Exonerating evidence is harder to come by.

But this bill doesn’t take any of that into consideration.  Instead, a company – no matter how big or small, equipped with a legal department or not – may be forced to defend itself against a False Claims lawsuit without the benefit of time-sensitive exonerating material. 

More importantly, A-3304’s retroactive application of the False Claims Act is unconstitutional, and puts companies that do business in the State of New Jersey in serious danger of unfair and unjust litigation abuse. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A-265 Receives Broad Support in the Assembly Judiciary Committee

What do the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, NJBIA, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, National Federation of Independent Business-New Jersey, Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, Chemistry Council of New Jersey, New Jersey Food Council, and the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey have in common?

All were present to support A-265, sponsored by Assemblyman David Russo, which would create specialized business courts in New Jersey.  Chairman Peter Barnes noted the wide range of support. 

Legal issues involving businesses are complex, laden with terminology and evidence which is unfamiliar to the common court.  Highly technical matters are identified and addressed at great cost to both businesses and taxpayers alike.  The advantage of a business court is that it would permit business-related judicial matters to be heard by courts with an established background and knowledge of such litigation.  A majority of northeastern states already have a business court in place, and it is actively under consideration by several others. 

Establishing a business court doesn’t just improve the efficiency of our court system – it sends a strong message to businesses that New Jersey is a solid place in which to expand and hire workers. 

A-265 was posted today for discussion only.  NJLRA looks forward to the bill’s reintroduction and advancement in the 215th legislative session, which begins next week.  You can download a copy of NJLRA's testimony in support of business courts here.  

Legislation to create a business court in New Jersey on AJU agenda for discussion

A-265 would create a specialized business court within the New Jersey Superior Court.  

Legal issues involving businesses are increasingly complex, laden with terminology and evidence which is unfamiliar to the common court.  Highly technical matters are identified and addressed at great cost to both businesses and taxpayers alike. 

And unsurprisingly, we are among a minority of states on the east coast which do not have a business court in place.

NJLRA supports A-265 because it would permit narrow business-related judicial matters to be heard by courts with an established background and knowledge of business litigation.  And with an unemployment rate in excess of 9 percent – the highest in the region – the creation of a business court serves as an incentive for leading employers to increase their business presence in New Jersey.  The highly specialized industries, including the life sciences, which are affected by this legislation have the potential to create long-term, high paying jobs that will be essential to growing our state’s economy over the next several years.   

It is sponsored by Assemblyman David Russo (R-Midland Park). 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Legislative Update

A-3434, which NJLRA opposes, was passed in the Assembly yesterday by a vote of 44-27.  This bill, which requires a review of consumer contract for unconscionability, may actually be in conflict with Federal law under a U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down on April 27th, 2011 in AT&T vs. Concepcion.  In that decision, the Court ruled that "[w]hen state law prohibits outright the arbitration of a particular type of claim, the FAA [Federal Arbitration Act] displaces the conflicting rule."  Please click here for more information

Friday, December 09, 2011

Statute of limitations bill, A-3929, advanced by committee

The Assembly Regulated Professions Committee unanimously approved A-3929, which requires certain civil actions against certain licensed professionals to be brought within two years, down from six.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

**Legislative Updates**

Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula’s “Trade Secrets Act” was passed unanimously by the General Assembly during Monday’s voting session.  Under A-921/S-2456, a company or organization would be able to sue for damages or losses that result from someone taking proprietary information (a recipe, chemical formula, invention, intellectual property, etc.) and trying to profit from it by selling it or manufacturing it.  If I take a secret recipe for a food item, sell it and make money from it, for instance, I would have to pay royalties to the company or person from whom I stole it.   A-921/S-2456 has now passed both houses and has the support of NJLRA. 

On the agenda for Thursday’s Assembly Regulated Professions Committee hearing is A-3929, which would require civil actions against certain licensed professionals (including most doctors) to be brought within two years instead of six.  This is especially important as witnesses become unavailable and records are destroyed over the extended period.  NJLRA supports this bill and looks forward to the committee’s favorable passage.  It is sponsored by Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson).

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Lame Duck Season is upon us

The so-called “lame duck” session of the Legislature – the period between Election Day and the start of the next legislative session in January – is traditionally a period of frenetic lawmaking activity.  For outgoing legislators who may be retiring or have not been reelected, it is the very last chance they have to shepherd bills through the democratic process. 

NJLRA has five bills which it hopes will advance:

A-2473/S-480, which would apply the $50 million appeal bond cap enjoyed by tobacco companies to all businesses in New Jersey, so they do not have to prepay in order to appeal a judicial decision.

A-3333/S-2855, which would limit causes of actions under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act to consumers who suffer an ascertainable loss (as opposed to businesses), and make the Act applicable only to transactions which occur in New Jersey. 

A-4228/S-3028, the “New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act.” This bill would prevent drunken motorists, convicted of DUI, from suing licensed beverage servers who served them in the event they drive drunk and cause themselves injury.  (Yes, thanks to the New Jersey Supreme Court, we need legislation to clarify that drunk drivers cannot legally profit from their irresponsibility).

A-4135, which would allow defendants the right to immediately appeal a class action certification.

A-1982/S-760, which would address skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums and a consequential physician shortage in certain specialties by: protecting volunteer physicians acting in good faith from liability; prevent insurance companies from immediately imposing an increase on doctors who are named in a malpractice suit; require physicians providing expert testimony to be licensed in New Jersey and board certified in the appropriate specialty; and reverse the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Ryan v. Renny, which gutted the Affidavit of Merit Statute enacted in 2004. 

LRW will keep you abreast should any of the aforementioned bills advanced.  For the most up-to-date legislative calendar, click here to visit the Legislature’s website

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Survey: South Jersey Becoming a Lawsuit Mecca

A majority of New Jersey’s small business owners want the Legislature to address legal reform, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton survey

And business owners in the Philly suburbs are the most likely to be taken to court. 

The survey found that the majority of New Jersey’s small business owners aren’t happy with the state’s culture of litigation:

  • 84% of those surveyed rate the state’s business climate as “fair” or “poor,” and an astounding 87% say they want the Legislature to prioritize legal reform. 
  • 24% of businesses statewide have been threatened with litigation in the past five years, but that number jumps to 40% among South Jersey businesses. 
  • Overall, 1-in-4 South Jersey small businesses have actually been brought to court during the past five years.  The chances of courtroom litigation also increase with a business’s longevity and growth.
  • Two-thirds of South Jersey businesses saw an increase in their liability insurance premiums during this time period, even if they haven’t been sued.

Marcus Rayner, NJLRA's executive director, released the following statement:

“It’s clear that New Jersey’s liability laws put the state at a disadvantage,” said Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance.  But that disadvantage is exacerbated if a business happens to operate in the suburbs of Philadelphia.”

“Every time a lawsuit is filed against one of New Jersey’s small businesses, every business’s insurance costs threaten to rise.  Business owners are telling us that even if it’s not their business being sued today, they still might incur costs and will need to make judgments about where to invest their business’s resources."

“This is not the kind of restraint we ought to have in a state with a 9.2% unemployment rate.  When 87% of small business owners in a state want change, it’s time for the Legislature to act.” 

The survey was conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.    Full results can be found our website, http://njlra.org.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Jersey Trade Secrets Act Advances

Admittedly, when I think of “trade secrets,” I tend to think of multiples of, well, Trade Secret

But in New Jersey, the “trade secrets” referred to an important piece of legislation, S-2456, which unanimously passed the Senate Commerce Committee on Monday. 

Trade secrets aren’t the same as patents.  For instance, you might patent a life-saving drug, but the New Jersey Trade Secrets Act might refer to the process behind its manufacture.

Under A-921/S-2456, a company or organization would be able to sue for damages or losses that result from someone taking proprietary information (a recipe, chemical formula, invention, intellectual property, etc.) and trying to profit from it by selling it or manufacturing it.  If I take a secret recipe for a food item, sell it and make money from it, I would have to pay royalties to the company or person from whom I stole it.   

A-921 passed the full Assembly in late 2010.  Its Senate counterpart, however, was amended before being voted out of Committee, so the Assembly will need to vote on the amended version before it heads to the Governor’s desk.   

New Jersey is, of course, among a minority of states which have not passed the Trade Secrets Act.  More information about the Act can be found in the New Jersey Law Journal and on the Legislature’s homepage

Friday, September 16, 2011

Assemblyman Cryan: “Everybody wins if we curb frivolous lawsuits."

One thing is clear: NJ's hospitality industry could be severely impacted by Voss v.  Tranquilino.

Here are some highlights from Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan’s (D-Union) keynote address at NJLRA’s annual Fall Membership Luncheon:

"As much as we try to help new businesses establish, hire people and flourish, we need to devote the same sort of efforts to making sure existing businesses and industries flourish. We all know that tort reform goes a long way to removing the obstacles that exist and actually prevent businesses and industries from growing.

"We've got to be able to give businesses and physicians and those who are impacted by what we [legislators] do some stability and some certainty in the marketplace. And hopefully together we can do that."

Cryan told the audience about his personal experience with lawsuit abuse in Middlesex County. His family-operated establishment was the third and largest of three establishments visited by an intoxicated patron. The patron, who was refused service by Cryan's establishment, fled as an employee attempted to call him cab and caused a fatal automobile accident. Cryan's establishment - the only establishment to refuse him service - ended up paying out half a million dollars in claims.

"I look at this recent Voss decision, for example, and the Supreme Court is going to potentially take down the whole hospitality industry... Have we kind of lost our way a little bit in terms of who's responsible for what?

The case refers to the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Voss v. Tranquilino earlier this year, which permitted an Ocean County motorcyclist to sue the establishment which served him for bodily injuries he sustained while driving under the influence.

"Tort reform isn't a Republican or Democrat issue - it's an economic issue," said Marcus Rayner, NJLRA’s executive director.

"That's why it's important to urge the legislature to support measures like A-3333/S-2855, which would help protect honest businesses from frivolous litigation," Rayner said.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Van Drew introduces Senate version of legislation to reverse Voss v. Tranquilino

Thumb Late last month, Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) introduced S-3028.  Like its companion bill, A-4228, this legislation would reverse the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Voss  v. Tranquilino, which allowed a motorcyclist to sue the bar for injuries he sustained while driving drunk.  

The text isn’t available on the Legislature’s website as of today, but an earlier report in the Asbury Park Press outlines some of its parameters.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tort Reform in New Jersey, Round 1 (2002 – 2003)

We get a lot of questions about tort reform efforts pre-NJLRA, particularly with respect to medical malpractice reform.  Here is a roundup of what occurred in New Jersey, 2002-2003.  Note: Since this effort predates NJLRA’s founding, please chime in with anything else that should be included. 

  • Omnibus legislation was introduced in December 2002 with the sponsorship of then-Assembly Majority Leader Joe Roberts.  The legislation, A50, was intended to address escalating medical malpractice insurance premiums and concerns over a consequential shortage of doctors in New Jersey.  Liability insurance for New Jersey’s hospitals had increased an average of 50 percent in just the previous year.  Dubbed the “Patients First Act,” A50 called for a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, while allowing plaintiffs to collect up to $1 million in “pain and suffering” from a special state fund; tightening the statute of limitations during which an individual could file a malpractice claim; create discoverability protections and medical error reporting to help healthcare providers improve patient safety; provide a “good Samaritan clause” for physicians providing emergency care on a volunteer basis. 
  • December 12, 2002: A50 clears Assembly Health and Human Services Committee; Assembly Banking and Insurance Committee, and Assembly Appropriations Committee before being passed by the full Assembly, 44-20-12.  The $300,000 cap on non-economic damages for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals is removed.
  • January 2003: Unhappy with the removal of the $300,000 cap, physician groups organize a three-day “work stoppage,” despite pleas from legislative sponsors for restraint.
  • March 2003: The Senate removes the $300,000 non-economic cap provision from its companion bill, S2174, before releasing it from the Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee with additional amendments.  It is passed by the full Senate, 32-5.
  • April 2003: Doctors’ associations threaten a second work-stoppage if the cap is not reinstated.
  • June 30, 2003: With heavy lobbying by the Trial Lawyers Association (now called the “American Association for Justice”) and waning physician sympathy, A50/S2174 dies on concurrence in the Assembly. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cryan will be keynote speaker at NJLRA Membership Luncheon

Cryan Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union) will be the keynote speaker at NJLRA’s annual Fall Membership Luncheon. 

The event will take place at the Trenton Country Club in West Trenton on Tuesday, September 13, at noon. 

Click here to RSVP now.  It’s free, but an RSVP is required.  We hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anti-bullying law puts taxpayers at risk

We all remember Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide last year, which propelled the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act through the Legislature.  Just about everyone agrees that addressing student bullying is a positive step toward deterring the conditions which contributed to this young man’s untimely death.   But as schools across New Jersey prepare to reopen next month, the unintended consequences of this law may end up may end up exposing school districts to costly liability that taxpayers will be forced to bear. 

According to a recent report in NJ Spotlight, online and out-of-school liability emerged as an area of concern for school personnel during required training sessions held over the summer.  Where to draw the line between parental and school responsibility has been a subject of debate for many years.  With the implementation of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, however, this responsibility and liabilities associated with it have been placed solely on school districts and the taxpayers which fund them.  Trial lawyers in New Jersey have essentially been given a blank check to sue school districts on behalf of bullied children, no matter how ambiguous the term “bullying” may be. 

School districts have an obligation to enforce New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and to be responsive to student bullying.  But civil liability ultimately belongs on the backs of bullies, not taxpayers. 

It’s something school districts will have to come to grips with this school year when the law goes into effect.  Check out my letter-to-the-editor about it in the Courier News

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Strassel: The Senate’s Lawsuit Factory

In case you missed it, Kimberley A.  Strassel details trial lawyers’ attempts to use a controversial case to block mandatory arbitration clauses (The Senate’s Lawsuit Factory, The Wall Street Journal, 7/22/11).  Some how-to highlights:

1) Identify a law or regulation that prevents trial lawyers from cashing in.

2) Identify a "victim" of this law or regulation.

3) Get congressional allies to turn said victim into a cause célèbre.

4) Use ensuing moral outrage to get the law or regulation changed.

5) Buy a yacht.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is suing the bar a new drunk driving trend?

It’s been fifteen months since we brought you the case of Voss v. Tranquilino.  You’ll recall that the plaintiff in this case, Ocean County resident Fredrick Voss, had a blood alcohol level nearly two and a half times the legal limit when he plowed his motorcycle into a car (“Drive drunk, hurt yourself, and blame someone else, 4/29/10).  He later sued Tiffany’s Restaurant, where he had consumed the alcohol, for his injuries.  The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to hear the case to determine whether a 1997 Motor Vehicle law, which barred drunken drivers from collecting damages for their injuries, trumped an earlier law allowing those who suffer a loss (usually the innocent involved) to sue the licensed beverage server. 

In the year since, the Court actually ruled in favor of Voss, essentially giving a green light to a person charged with a DUI to sue a tavern owner for any injuries they sustain in the process of driving drunk (an illegal act, last I checked). 

It doesn’t stop there, either.  The parents of a young man who was killed after driving home from a popular Hamilton bar are now suing the establishment for wrongful death.  The loss of a child is always tragic, irrespective of the means.  But usually when “drunken driver” is mentioned in conjunction with “wrongful death,” it’s the family of an innocent motorist who is suing the drunk driver – not the family of the drunk driver suing the bar. 

What we’re seeing now, in the fifteen months since the New Jersey Supreme Court decided to hear the Voss case, is a disturbing push to use New Jersey’s civil justice system to compensate criminal behavior.  Assemblyman John Amodeo introduced legislation to overturn the Court’s decision in Voss v. Tranquilino¸ and prevent drunken drivers from suing others for injuries they cause themselves.  The bill number is A-4228. 

It’s unfortunate but necessary that the Legislature clarifies that New Jersey’s legal system should not reward illegal behavior.   

Friday, July 15, 2011

Session Recap

It’s been a quiet week for civil justice reform.  Unsurprising, since failed attempts to override some of the Governor’s vetoes, school funding, and speculation over which congressional district will be eliminated during redistricting have dominated New Jersey politics.

 To recap the 2010-2011 Session thus far, NJLRA supports the following bills:

  Bills