Industry Hopeful New Bill Will Curb Class-Action Suits

Legal-reform legislation, a longtime priority of business, has been stymied for years in Congress by the trial-lawyers' lobby. But industry proponents of reform are keeping the pressure on for passage. In the latest effort, a coalition of industry groups staged a Washington press conference May 19 to announce new legislation that would amend federal jurisdiction statutes to allow interstate class-action lawsuits to be heard in federal courts. Most class-action suits currently can be heard only in state courts, a restriction that industry lobbyists contend invites frivolous suits because plaintiff lawyers can "shop" for favorable forums. Key sponsors of the bipartisan bill are Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R, Va.), Rick Boucher (D, Va.), Ed Bryant (R, Tenn.), and Jim Moran (D, Va.). "Class actions are a growing and costly litigation nightmare for U.S. corporations," says Don Evans, senior counsel of the Chemical Manufacturers Assn., Washington. "In just the past few years, the number of class-action lawsuits has increased dramatically. The increase has occurred almost entirely in state courts, some of which seem to have an 'anything goes' attitude toward class-action lawsuits."

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