June 11, 1998
Council members answer the call, flood Albany with faxes
The Business Council has asked its members to join the call for tort reform to curtail New York's out-of-control lawsuit industry-and members are responding in significant numbers.
Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh urged over 1,200 manufacturing members to write to lawmakers urging them to support tort reform and to reject proposals to expand liability.
Members were asked to fax letters for delivery to the senders' Senate and Assembly representatives, to Senate and Assembly leaders and to Governor Pataki.
Only two days after the letter campaign was launched, 500 letters had already been generated.
"We want to put a stop to lawsuit abuse in New York State by changing the laws that give trial lawyers an incentive to file frivolous suits and to view all of us as potential 'deep pocket' defendants," Walsh wrote.
The well-funded and powerful lobby for trial lawyers is aggressively pushing for bills that would increase both the cost and volume of lawsuits in New York State, Walsh noted.
"We can't sit back and watch as the lawsuit industry gets even bigger," he wrote. "The Legislature needs to hear from all of us that we need real, comprehensive civil justice reform."
New Yorkers for Civil Justice Reform, a coalition that includes The Business Council as well as local government groups, school districts, professional groups and associations, medical groups, and many others, is strongly urging lawmakers to pass the Volker-Morelle Civil Justice Reform Act.
This bill would:
- Repeal "joint and several liability," under which a defendant can be forced to pay all of the damages awarded-even if that defendant's liability is assessed at only 1 percent.
- Cap non-economic damages that can be awarded in tort cases.
- Create a "statute of repose" to limit to 10 years the period in which a manufacturer can be held liable for products.
- Allow contractors and employers to defend themselves against lawsuits over worksite injuries by introducing evidence that the plaintiff's own negligence was a factor.
The Business Council and New Yorkers for Civil Justice Reform are also urging lawmakers to reject trial lawyer-supported bills that would expand liability further.
For example, the so-called "wrongful death" bill would enable juries to award not only damages for economic losses but also more subjective awards for "pain and suffering."