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HOUSE BILL AIMS TO LESSEN NATION’S LOVE FOR LITIGATION

SHARE HOUSE BILL AIMS TO LESSEN NATION’S LOVE FOR LITIGATION

Suing each other has become the great American pastime, which may help explain why law schools are booming and engineering schools are scraping the barrel for qualified students.

"It's common knowledge that we have too many lawyers," says Rep. Thomas Luken, D-Ohio.The fact that Japan has one lawyer for every 9,000 people while we have one for every 350 will tell you something about the lure of lucrative litigation in the United States.

Luken is a prime sponsor of the Uniform Product Safety Act of 1989, an effort to make sense of the hodgepodge of state laws that govern the adjudication of tort liability suits.

His bill would establish standards of liability; make it harder to sue if you've misused a product, or if the accident was caused by drugs or alcohol; prevent duplicate compensation; impose penalties for frivolous lawsuits, and require "clear and convincing evidence" before punitive damages could be awarded.

The bill requires manufacturers to warn consumers about newly discovered risks in their products. It contains a mediation provision to reduce legal costs and encourage settlement of claims.

Similar legislation in the Senate would modify the "deep pockets" rule so damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress are allocated by degree of fault rather than by which defendant is the richest.

It's no mystery why such restrictions are needed.

Luken tells of a friend who wanted to make and sell a new and better wheelchair. Don't do it, said his lawyer, you might get sued.