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Groups to push 'reform' proposals in 2006.

Several groups that oppose full access to justice for consumers will be advancing state legislative proposals next year that would make it much more difficult for people to seek compensation after they have been harmed by the actions of others.

Changes to the collateral-source rule are a high priority for the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA). It will seek legislation allowing collateral-source evidence to be presented to the jury and allowing judges to offset awards by the amount of collateral-source payments a plaintiff receives. ATRA will also try to eliminate joint liability so that each defendant is required to pay only its proportionate share of damages, regardless of whether the plaintiff has been made whole.

ATRA will continue its push in several states for a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. On the products liability front, ATRA advocates bills to limit theories of liability, eliminate strict liability, and heighten the standards of proof for defects and causation.

In the area of punitive damages, ATRA wants legislation requiring that actual malice be proven by "clear and convincing evidence."

The American Legislative Exchange Committee is advancing two proposals: The Class Action Improvements Act would limit the effectiveness of class action lawsuits by making changes affecting jurisdiction, standing, and venue. The Appeal Bond Waiver Act would reduce the appeal bond for multimillion- and billion-dollar verdicts against defendants to $1 million, or $100,000 if the defendant is a small business.

In addition to supporting all these provisions, the Chamber of Commerce is advocating for a shortened statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases.
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Date:Dec 1, 2005
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