Twenty-one states have enacted tort reforms so far this year, the highest number since 1986, according to the American Tort Reform Association. In comparison with the mid-year total for 2003, 19 states passed tort reforms in all of 1995, previously the busiest year since ATRA began measuring reform activity, the Washington, D.C.-based association reports.
This year's roster includes eight states passing malpractice reforms, ATRA adds. Other areas of tort reform include asbestos liability and attorney contingency fees.
"The changing political landscape in the states, the growing consumer awareness of how our civil justice system hurts the economy, and the ongoing medical liability crisis all have driven many states to enact meaningful reform this year," says ATRA President Sherman Joyce, in a release.
With most state legislatures now ended for the year, ATRA says some sort of tort reform was passed in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Of those, states passing medical malpractice reforms were Arkansas, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. Another 17 states considered or are still considering med mal legislation, ATRA adds.
ATRA says Texas passed the most comprehensive malpractice reforms law this year, including a cap on noneconomic damages, joint and several liability reform, and punitive damages reform.
Florida is still in special session on med mal reform.
Meanwhile, ATRA says governors in Missouri and Iowa vetoed tort reform bills this year. ATRA reports that the Iowa legislature has hired a law firm to challenge Governor Vilsack, claiming the governor improperly used his line-item veto.
This year, ATRA says, Colorado became the fifth state to enact attorney retention "sunshine" legislation, which eliminates the "backroom" negotiations of contingency fee contracts between personal injury lawyers and government officials.