Bush Signs Law Limiting Class-Action 'Junk Lawsuits'; Cases Moved to Federal Court

Article excerpt

Byline: James G. Lakely, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush yesterday signed into law legislation limiting multimillion-dollar "junk lawsuits," quickly making good on a campaign promise that businesses have wanted to see become reality for decades.

The new law, the first signed by Mr. Bush in his second term, moves most large, interstate class-action suits - such as those filed against the tobacco industry asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages - into federal courts, where huge financial penalties against business and industry are less likely to be imposed.

"[This] marks a critical step toward ending the lawsuit culture in our country," Mr. Bush said. "Before today, trial lawyers were able to drag defendants from all over the country into sympathetic local courts, even if those businesses have done nothing wrong."

The president toured the country in his re-election campaign last year, railing against the civil tort system. Late in the campaign, he stopped in Madison County, Ill., which has been by far the most popular place for trial lawyers to file class-action lawsuits on behalf of thousands of plaintiffs who have no connection to the county and who often don't even know they are party to the action.

Suits filed in Madison County rose from two in 1998 to 82 in 2004, as it gained a reputation for producing judges and juries who nearly always favored the plaintiff and imposed huge penalties against businesses.

Mr. Bush pointed out that 24 class-action suits have been filed there so far this year, "including 20 in the past week after Congress made it clear their chance to exploit the class-action system would soon be gone."

Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, said the new law "makes it easier for corporations to evade responsibility for making right their wrongs. …