April 15, 1999
Several new signs suggest that momentum for civil justice reform is growing
There have been several signs in Albany in recent weeks to suggest that momentum for tort reform may be growing.
The New York State Bar Association April 10 voted to continue its opposition to tort reform-but not before a minority of its members voiced strong dissent.
The Corporate Counsel and Municipal Law sections of the association supported some reforms advanced by New Yorkers for Civil Justice Reform, a coalition that includes The Council and groups representing municipalities, nonprofit groups, and associations of physicians, architects, farmers, and many others.
The Bar Association agreed to draft a preamble to its report acknowledging room for improvement in New York's civil justice system and saying that the state's bar will consider changes.
Assemblyman George J. Winner Jr. (R-Elmira) introduced a sweeping tort reform bill March 30 that would: impose "truth-in advertising" standards on trial lawyers; limit attorney contingency fees to 25 percent in all tort cases; limit the use of "junk science"; and replace onerous joint and several liability with provisions to limit a party's liability to its equitable share of the damages. The Business Council supports this bill.
Gary P. Van Graafeiland, general counsel for Eastman Kodak Company, and Roger A. Hannay, president/CEO of Hannay Reels, agreed to speak at the annual Issues Forum sponsored by The Public Policy Institute, The Council's research affiliate. The event, which will take place May 10 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, will focus on tort reform this year.
The Council's Manufacturing Week will feature a lobby day in Albany May 11 focused on tort reform.
The Pataki administration indicated that it is beginning discussions with various interest groups designed to lead to agreement on tort reform legislation.