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AAJ Statement on House Judiciary Committee Markup of Unnecessary Tort Reform Bills

February 02,2017

Washington, DC—The following is a statement from American Association for Justice President Julie Braman Kane on today’s markup of the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017” [H.R. 720] and the “Innocent Party Protection Act” [H.R. 725] in the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee:

“It’s fitting that tort reformers in Congress would choose Groundhog Day to recycle this pair of unnecessary corporate handouts. The ink is barely dry on last year’s failed attempts to push these bills at the behest of corporations and their front groups, and it is offensive that certain members of the committee are prioritizing tired legislation that would strip Americans of their fundamental rights.”

“If enacted, these bills would do nothing to strengthen the judiciary and would have a devastating impact on Americans’ ability to seek justice when they have been injured by corporate wrongdoing. Congress should be making every attempt to advance their constituents’ rights, not fast-tracking bills that create a system rigged in favor of powerful corporations.”

Background on H.R. 720 and H.R. 725:

H.R. 720 undermines the authority of an independent judiciary to impose Rule 11 sanctions by replacing the discretion of federal court judges with Congressionally-mandated rules that were previously tested and found to be a complete failure.

H.R. 720 would:

  • Disproportionately impact claims for civil rights violations, employment discrimination claims, privacy suits, equal protection violations, and voting rights claims.

  • Incentivize parties to drag out litigation by filing unwarranted motions for attorney’s fees.

  • Remove the safe-harbor provision of the rule, effectively eliminating the ability to remedy minor infractions.

  • The American Bar Association, Judicial Conference of the United States, and a coalition of consumer groups have written letters to Congress opposing this legislation. 

H.R. 725 creates unnecessary obstacles for people to bring their state claims in state court, meaning states cannot enforce laws enacted to protect their citizens. H.R. 725 overturns the 100-year-old “fraudulent joinder doctrine” in order to give powerful defendants an unfair advantage to pick and choose their forum without the normal burden of proving proper jurisdiction.

H.R. 725 would:

  • Trample on states’ rights and raise serious federalism concerns because states would no longer be developing their own state law. 

  • Overturn traditional jurisdictional analysis by changing the test from a one-part test on no possibility of recovering under state law to a three-part test that invokes plausibility; good faith; and joint judgment.

  • Unfairly force a mini-trial on the merits, before discovery, over a preliminary, procedural matter.

Sarah Jones