State Chamber's position on civil justice reform

By The West Virginia Record | Sep 6, 2006

CHARLESTON -- Here are the components of civil justice reform suggested by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce in its policy issues report for the 2007 legislative session:

* Comparative fault: Enact additional legislation that would require a person or entity to be held liable only for his or her degree of fault as determined by a jury.

* Collateral source: Allows courts to consider amounts that plaintiffs have received as compensation from other, non-family sources to cover costs in determining damages. Juries should consider all sources, which offset that economic loss in determining a just verdict and avoid unfair double-dipping by jury award winners.

* Punitive damage distribution and caps: Many states have limited these damages or have redirected their use for a public benefit instead of an additional reward for plaintiffs.

* Other non-economic damages: Establish a uniform standard, taking into consideration whether the situation caused severe physical injury. If so, the maximum should bear some relationship to a standard formula beyond just compensation for damages determined by the verdict.

* Deliberate intent: Statutorily define that exposure allegations are not subject to deliberate intent actions, but should be managed through Workers' Compensation Insurance.

* Lawyer disclosure: Attorneys hired to represent the state should be hired in an open competitive bid process and all judgments and settlements should be available for public disclosure and appropriation.

* Medical monitoring: Legislature should enact legislation to correct the 1999 state Supreme Court decision to allow individuals exposed to hazardous substances recover damages for future medical monitoring even if he or she has no physical injuries.

* Appeal bonds: The 100 percent bond requirement for appeals is a disincentive to pursue legal right of appeal. Appeal bonds should guarantee the ability to pay a judgment, not be a mechanism to thwart pursuit of legal interests.

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