Monday, February 13, 2012

Minnesota Governor Vetoes So-Called “Tort Reform” Measures

Thank you, Governor Mark Dayton, for the common sense approach shown in your veto messages for four “tort reform” bills.  The full letters are available on the governor’s web site here.

Excerpts include:

“I am vetoing and returning Chapter 118, SF 149, which addresses the unrelated topics of conciliation court claim limits and class actions appeals.  These provisions are not consistent with the court’s recommendations for effectively addressing small claims, represent legislative meddling with court procedures best handled by the judiciary, and do not address legitimate problems in Minnesota.  A recent study by the National Center for State Courts revealed that 72% of the civil case load in Minnesota is consumed by small claims and contract matters, while civil tort claims represent less than 3% of the cases.  The Legislature should be addressing the areas of the court that consume the bulk of its workload.”

“I have vetoed and am returning Chapter 119, SF 373, which drastically lowers the statute of limitations for many important civil claims.  . . . I am perplexed by the charge that Minnesota is an excessively litigious state or has a negative civil justice system for business. According to the Minnesota Supreme Court, civil case filings for injury claims are down over 40% since 1997, despite our expanding population. . . .”

“I am vetoing and returning Chapter 120, SF 429, a measure that has been rejected several times by the legislature and the courts. . . . This legislation would require that attorneys' fee awards must be in proportion to the damages awarded in a civil case. This requirement would seriously undermine the legislative purpose for enacting statutes that allow Minnesota businesses, consumers, and employees to collect their damages - plus reasonable attorney fees - for certain wrongful conduct. A rule of proportionality would make it difficult, if not impossible, for individuals to bring important and meritorious claims of relatively small value. To ensure that those claims are brought forward, the legislature has shifted the costs of bringing the claim to the negligent party, and rightly so. This legislation removes that protection.  Further, the courts already review fee awards to ascertain that they are in relation to the recovery. However, the court will also consider other relevant factors like the time involved in the case and the nature of the controversy. No evidence has been presented that the current system is unfair to those found in violation of Minnesota laws.”

“I am vetoing and returning Chapter 121, SF 530, which would lower the interest rate on judgments for negligent parties and their insurance companies.  This bill is a step backwards for justice.”

PM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/civpro/2012/02/minnesota-governor-vetoes-so-called-tort-reform-measures.html

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