Product Liability Compromise Draws Consumer Fire

Senators John D. Rockefeller IV (D, W. Va.) and Slade Gorton (R, Wash.), leading champions in Congress of industry-sought product-liability legislation, are drafting a revised bill that reflects a compromise with the White House. Although industry lobbyists are withholding judgment of the measure until they learn its details, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) already is mounting a campaign against it. On June 10 the Washington-based organization released a study showing that product-liability insurance cost manufacturers only 24 cents for each $100 of product sales in the U.S. between 1987 and 1996.

Commenting on the report, CFA Chairman Howard Metzenbaum, former Democratic senator from Ohio, showed he hasn't softened his criticism of industry since leaving Capitol Hill. "During my 19 years in the Senate," he said, "I heard the high-priced industry lobbyists crying wolf -- saying we had to change the product-liability laws in this country to save American business. This study proves conclusively that they were crying crocodile tears."

Metzenbaum also criticized White House officials for "turning their backs on the beleaguered American consumer" by supporting a compromise.

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