McMorris Votes to Stop Frivolous Lawsuits

(Washington, D.C.)  Congresswoman Cathy McMorris (WA-05) announced today that the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 420 The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2005. This bill will grow the economy and help small businesses by holding individuals and attorneys accountable for abusive lawsuits.

“One of my top priorities is to ensure economic growth; for our region this begins by protecting and promoting the interests of our small businesses,” said McMorris. “Frivolous lawsuits make both small businesses and their employees suffer. While some claims are legitimate, a large number of lawsuits are completely without merit. We must require accountability, especially in the form of monetary sanctions, for those who bring forth reckless claims that threaten the future of the small businesses in Eastern Washington."

The number of civil lawsuits has tripled since the 1960s and the current tort system is costing Americans well over $200 billion per year, the equivalent of a five percent tax on wages. Small businesses rank the cost and availability of liability insurance as one of their top priorities, second only to the cost of health care. The current Washington State budget includes more than $170 million to play for tort claims and related defense costs, which is often transferred over to taxpayers in the form of a “litigation tax.”

The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2005 curbs lawsuit abuse by:

  • Restoring mandatory sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous lawsuits;
  • Permitting monetary sanctions, including reimbursement of reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation costs;
  • Abolishing the “free pass” provision that allows parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions by withdrawing a suit within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been filed;
  • Providing a national solution to prevent forum shopping, the practice of attorneys bringing lawsuits in jurisdictions that consistently hand down rewards, even when the case as little or no connection to the state or locality.

Since January, McMorris has voted in support of numerous bills regarding tort reform legislation. She co-sponsored The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (H.R. 800), which provides protections for those in the firearms industry from lawsuits brought forth by individuals who commit crimes using firearms. Last week the House passed The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act (H.R. 554) prohibits obesity or weight gain-related claims against the food industry. The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (H.R. 516) unclogs specific over-used courts and protects customers with a “Consumer Class Action Bill of Rights.”

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