House Passes Measure Limiting Frivolous Lawsuits

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - In a vote of 229 to 174, the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed a measure aimed at ending frivolous lawsuits.

Most Democrats voted against the bill, saying it went too far in limiting access to the courts and distracted Congress from more important matters.

Republicans used statements from Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and his running mate and successful former trial lawyer John Edwards, who are in favor of tougher sanctions on lawyers who abuse the system, to convince Democrats to approve the legislation.

The bill prevents "forum shopping, which allows attorneys to seek courts that are well known for awarding huge damage awards. Instead, personal injury cases must be brought only where the plaintiff lives, was injured, or where the defendants place of business is located.

It also imposes a one-year law license suspension if an attorney files three or more frivolous cases in the same court jurisdiction.

"This week is John Edwards appreciation week as we take up four lawsuit abuse prevention bills," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

The bill's passage was praised by the National Federation of Independent Business.

"Civil litigation was once a last resort remedy to settle limited disputes and quarrels, but recent years have brought a litigation explosion," said NFIB Senior Vice President of Public Policy Dan Danner.

"The number of civil lawsuits has tripled since the 1960s. Litigation has become big business, and it is putting small businesses out of business," Danner said. "Attorneys and their clients need to think before filing an action, and ask themselves if their filing is frivolous. This bill will enforce that type of thinking."

The measure now goes to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.

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