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HISTORIC PRODUCT LIABILITY VOTE PAVES WAY FOR PRODUCT LIABILITY LEGISLATION

 HISTORIC PRODUCT LIABILITY VOTE PAVES WAY
 FOR PRODUCT LIABILITY LEGISLATION
 WASHINGTON, May 12 /PRNewswire/ -- William D. Fay, executive director of the Product Liability Coordinating Committee, issued this statement following the U.S. Senate cloture vote on product liability legislation as an amendment to S. 250 -- The National Voter Registration Act -- and majority leader Sen. George Mitchell's (D-Maine) decision to withdraw the bill from consideration. Product liability legislation would create a uniform federal product liability law to replace the current patchwork of 50 state laws. It will reduce the costs of litigation, improve U.S. competitiveness and assure that claimants, not their lawyers, are the primary beneficiaries of awards:
 The U.S. Senate's vote to consider product liability legislation as an amendment to S. 250 is a victory for millions of American workers, consumers and business owners. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell immediately withdrew the bill once it became clear the vote would lead to an open debate on product liability legislation. Mitchell's decision reflects the power and influence of the trial lawyers and their lobbying arm -- The Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) -- who control so much of the Senate agenda.
 It is a travesty that ATLA's power has so influenced the Senate that they refused to bring S. 640 -- The Product Liability Fairness Act -- to the floor on its own merits. And its merits, evidenced by the support it has received, are numerous.
 The current 50 state law system is victimizing American consumers and workers and strangling U.S. business. But 12 years of fighting to correct these abuses and bring justice and fairness to the system has met with formidable resistance from ATLA.
 While the bill continues to be supported by a bipartisan majority in the Senate, today's procedural vote was split along party lines. Forty Senators have co-sponsored the bill, including Bob Kasten (R-Wis.), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Danforth (R-Mo.). Another five Senators -- Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas), Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii), Jim Exon (D-Neb.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) -- voted for it in its 13-7 approval in the Senate Commerce Committee last autumn.
 Support for the legislation goes far beyond Congress:
 -- The National Governors' Association, typically advocates of states' rights, last year unanimously called on Congress to enact federal product liability legislation.
 -- President Bush called for enactment of reform in his State of the Union address.
 -- The Japanese government pointed to our product liability system as a serious impediment to American competitiveness.
 -- The Brookings Institution found in a comprehensive study that our current system fails to make products safer and may actually stifle innovations which could improve safety.
 -- Even the legal profession itself has called for change. The prestigious American Law Institute called for enactment of punitive damage reforms exactly like those in the legislation. And the Defense Research Institute (which represents defense attorneys) has called for action.
 With the enthusiastic support of these divergent, respected individuals and institutions this legislation should have been enacted by now. But ATLA's tight grip on the legislative agenda has prevented it thus far. So confident is ATLA of its influence, in fact, that last year an ATLA official assured a National Press Club audience that the legislation would never come to the floor.
 ATLA has been proven wrong on that count. Yet the inherent unfairness of having this important legislation offered as an amendment to S. 250 remains. No strategy based on an amendment is ever perfect, since choosing one bill as the vehicle for another usually upsets the original bill's proponents.
 This bill is rational and fair. Its merits have been widely recognized. The majority has spoken.
 -0- 5/12/92
 /CONTACT: Bill Fay of the Product Liability Coordinating Committee, 703-276-5045/ CO: Product Liability Coordianting Committee ST: District of Columbia IN: SU: LEG


KD-DC -- DC043 -- 9407 05/12/92 18:38 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:May 12, 1992
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