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Friday, February 01, 2013

Ind. Law - “Loser pays” tort reform bill withdrawn

Eric Bradner of the Evansville Courier & Press reports today:

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was dealt the first legislative loss since taking office earlier this month on Thursday. It came when state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, gave up his efforts to push a “loser pays” tort reform bill that was part of the Republican’s first-year legislative agenda.

Delph, who was carrying the measure on Pence’s behalf, filed a motion to pull the bill from further consideration this year. He said he will focus instead on the governor’s proposal to lower Indiana’s income tax.

“I went and spoke with the governor’s office, and we agreed it would probably be best to withdraw it and revisit the issue sometime in the future,” Delph said.

The bill would have required the losing side in all civil litigation to pay the winner’s attorney fees and other costs — an idea championed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but that Indiana-based business groups have not sought.

The issue proved tricky for Pence. His staff asked Delph to carry the measure on the governor’s behalf — but since then, Pence has steadfastly refused to address it.

From Mary Beth Schneider's story in the Indianapolis Star:
Sen. Mike Delph, who had filed the measure at the request of Gov. Mike Pence’s administration, said he withdrew Senate Bill 88 after hearing concerns from several legislators, including from Sen. Brent Steele, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The problem with the bill is simple, Steele said: “It doesn’t work.”

Steele, R-Bedford, said he had filed “exactly the same bill” in 1995 and got an earful from just about every interest group.

They convinced him, he said, that it is unworkable because determining just who is the loser in a lawsuit is difficult — and impossible in “no fault” divorce cases.

Steele said that in a lawsuit where someone is seeking $40,000 damages and the defendant wants to settle for $20,000, both sides can come out winners if the jury awards $30,000. The plaintiff, he said, gets more than they were offered and the defendant pays less than was initially sought.

“At first blush you’d think it’s a good idea” to try to discourage lawsuits by making the loser bear the financial burden, Steele said, “but it’s just not workable.”

ILB: The ILB just tried to link to SB 88, but only gets "Bill Withdrawn" -- the text is no longer available.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 1, 2013 09:46 AM
Posted to Indiana Law