JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it is glad to see that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017.
"We are very pleased to see the U.S. House take bold action toward meaningful legal reforms this week," Brian Bunten, general counsel for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the St. Louis Record via email.
The House of Representatives passed the bill March 9. The vote was 220-201.
Bunten said the act will give Missouri businesses that are sued in federal court a clearer picture of the case brought against them.
"The Further Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017 will make sure Missouri businesses sued in federal court will be provided the full spectrum of information in cases where plaintiffs make claims against an asbestos trust fund, as well as a civil claim for damages," Bunten said. "It will take away no rights available to a plaintiff today nor harm anyone with a case pending before federal court, but it will ensure juries have ample information when deciding these types of cases."
The House also passed the Innocent Party Protection Act of 2017, with that bill passing by a wider margin. The vote was 224-194.
Bunten thinks the House has made positive strides with the passing of the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017.
"St. Louis city courts have become a destination for forum-shopping plaintiff’s attorneys and asbestos litigation over the last few years," Bunten said. "Hopefully this sends a message to Missouri lawmakers that their counterparts at the federal level are committed to the same type of bold reform asbestos litigation requires."
Bunten said the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry hopes to see the same kinds of changes that the federal bill makes come to the state level in Missouri. He said that the chamber is taking an active role in making that happen.
"The Missouri Chamber is pursuing similar legislation at the state level to bring the same standard of transparency to Missouri state courts," Bunten said.
The National Law Journal called the passing of the bill "part of the largest tort reform push in a decade on Capitol Hill." It also said this bill would cut down on class-action lawsuits, especially those in which "critics say large payouts for speculative or nonexistent injuries" are what the plaintiff is after.
The National Law Journal said the bill also associates attorney's fees with settlement amounts, limits plaintiff's attorneys on who they can represent and "halts discovery early on in cases."
The House of Representatives also passed the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017 on March 10. That bill, which the National Law Journal wrote would require judges to penalize with a monetary punishment attorneys who file cases in federal court that do not have any real value, passed 230-188.