Automakers lobby for limits on lawsuits

Detroit News
Monday, December 6, 2004

With the most favorable political environment in Washington in decades, automakers are stepping up efforts to enact legal reforms that could change the way consumer issues are handled in the nation's courts.
Buoyed by President Bush's re-election and a more solidly Republican Congress, Detroit's auto manufacturers are promoting efforts alongside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other business groups to reform the legal system and limit liability.
Among bills likely to come up early next year are those that would make it harder to mount class-action lawsuits and place limits on how much victims of medical malpractice could collect. Automakers also hope to see a bill that would create a separate arbitration system and trust fund to deal with asbestos-related injuries and claims.

While supporters portray the class-action legislation as an attempt to streamline the process, opponents say proposed reforms would shift cases to business-friendly venues.
Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy -- a member-supported consumer group based in New York -- said civil cases have historically been handled on the state level. Federal courts overwhelmed by the additional workload would tend to throw out cases, she said.

"There is a broad coalition of labor, environmental, civil rights and consumer groups that are vehemently opposed to this bill," Doroshow said. "Just about anybody who has a stake in protecting the public interest is opposed. Companies who commit wrongdoing should be forced to defend their actions in court. They'll be let off the hook."
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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