Senate Minority Leader Says Democratic Amendments to Class-Action Lawsuit Reform Bill Not Likely To Pass
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday told party members that Democratic amendments to the class-action lawsuit reform bill (S 5) likely will not pass, Roll Call reports. At a press conference on Tuesday, Reid "bemoaned" agreements made with Republicans by some Democratic supporters of the legislation to oppose all amendments, according to Roll Call (Pierce, Roll Call, 2/9).
The bill seeks to prevent "forum shopping," a practice under which attorneys file lawsuits in jurisdictions that often favor plaintiffs. The legislation also would shift class-action lawsuits from state to federal court in cases in which more than $5 million is in dispute or in which plaintiffs and defendants reside in different states. In addition, the bill includes several provisions that would protect plaintiffs from settlements that are more beneficial to attorneys than plaintiffs (California Healthline, 2/8).
The Senate bill represents a "fragile compromise" by members of both parties that House Republicans, who previously have introduced legislation that included more restrictions on class-action lawsuits, have agreed to support, provided that the legislation passes without amendments (Roll Call, 2/9).
Supporters of S 5 on Tuesday said that they had an adequate number of votes to defeat "major amendments" that Democrats likely will introduce on Wednesday, such as a measure sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) that would allow federal judges to select which state laws to apply in multistate class-action lawsuits, CQ Today reports.
However, according to CQ Today, amendments that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) likely will introduce "may have the votes to win adoption." Graham said that his amendment would require judges to make public the contents of class-action lawsuit settlements. Pryor, a former state attorney general, said that his amendment would exempt class-action lawsuits filed by state attorneys general.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) also has said that he might introduce an amendment that would exempt class-action lawsuits related to civil rights and wage-and-hours cases (Stern, CQ Today, 2/8). In addition, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) likely will introduce an amendment to exempt "mass tort" lawsuits filed in state courts (Peterson, CongressDaily, 2/8). The Durbin amendment is "considered an unacceptable change" by supporters of the bill (CQ Today, 2/8).
A Bingaman spokesperson said, "We do have an uphill battle, but Sen. Bingaman is talking to senators who he thinks might support what he's trying to do" (Peterson, CongressDaily, 2/8).
Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), who supports S 5, said, "We concluded the underlying federal law and this bill (are) better public policy than Bingaman's amendment or any alternative to the amendment" (CQ Today, 2/8).
Durbin said, "Even the most reasonable of amendments are just being categorically rejected" by Republicans (Roll Call, 2/9).
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said, "If the Senate passes any amendments then they are jeopardizing class action because the House won't pick up the bill, and we'll go to regular order and have hearings and everything like that" (Peterson, CongressDaily, 2/8).
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he expects the Senate to pass the bill this week (Stanton/Davis, CongressDaily, 2/8).