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At World Meeting, lawyers face global problem of tort 'reform'.

Efforts to restrict consumer rights have spread to all corners of the globe, and lawyers representing injured people in many countries face similar challenges, according to lawyers who attended a February meeting organized by the Pan-European Organization of Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL).

"There is widespread tort 'reform' across the world," said AAJ President Kathleen Flynn Peterson, who attended the World Meeting in London with CEO Jon Haber. "Trying to limit the rights of individuals is a global problem. The battles we've been facing are not unique; other organizations around the world also face them."

PEOPIL President John Picketing of Sheffield, England, and its CEO, Wolfgang Resch of Birmingham, England, welcomed participants from AAJ, the U.K. Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, and the Netherlands' Advocate your Slachtoffers van Personenschade ("Lawyers for victims of personal injury"). Groups from South Africa and Spain were also invited, and some organizations, such as the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), sent suggestions for the meeting agenda although their representatives could not attend.

After attending the AAJ Annual Convention in Chicago last year, Eva Scheerlinck, CEO of ALA, wrote in a PEOPIL news bulletin, "Our colleagues in the U.S. continue to face issues not dissimilar to our own." She noted in an e-mail to World Meeting attendees that widespread tort "reform" took hold in Australia between 2001 and 2003.

"We have caps on damages, thresholds on access to compensation, differing discount rates, different impairment guides that apply, as well as different definitions and procedures," she wrote.

Statutory changes in the U.K. have made it hard for lawyers there to manage their businesses and advise clients, said Pickering in a PEOPIL summary of 2007 events. "Even more worrying, a number of appellate court decisions have had the effect of reducing the scope of redress for personal injury victims," he added.

Picketing called the World Meeting to talk about how to protect the rights of injured people, consider cross-border matters of mutual interest, and discuss establishing a working group to facilitate cooperation between civil justice organizations in different countries. "After discussing the missions of all the associations and issues facing them, we learned that there are many common issues," Flynn Peterson said. "And we learned that because we're all likeminded organizations, there could be great benefits both to members and to our cause by continuing to work together."

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Title Annotation:Education
Date:May 1, 2008
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