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The House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over a variety of matters from immigration reform to intellectual property protections, fighting crime and terrorism, and protecting our Constitutional rights. Another issue the Committee deals with is legal reform. This week the House of Representatives took up two important bills passed by the Committee to help to root out fraud and abuse in our legal system.
Frivolous lawsuits have no place in the American courtroom. However, in recent years, courts have been flooded with these baseless lawsuits. The prevalence of frivolous lawsuits is reflected in the absurd warning labels companies must place on their products to limit their liability. A 5-inch brass fishing lure with three hooks is labeled “Harmful if swallowed.” A household iron contains the warning “Never iron clothes while they are being worn.” And a cardboard car sun shield that keeps sun off the dashboard warns “Do not drive with sun shade up.” The potential for frivolous lawsuits is behind all of these ridiculous warning labels.
Furthermore, the businesses and individuals who fall victim to frivolous lawsuits also suffer real-life consequences. They are forced to shell out thousands of dollars in legal costs, endure sleepless nights, and spend time away from their family, work, and customers to respond to frivolous pleadings. Many innocent victims have been left with substantial legal costs from defending themselves against frivolous lawsuits with no guarantee of compensation.
This is completely unacceptable and formed the basis for the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, or LARA, which provides the light at the end of the tunnel for the victims of these time consuming and costly lawsuits. This legislation would reduce unnecessary and abusive litigation while preserving the rights of citizens to file legitimate suits. LARA also ensures that victims of frivolous lawsuits receive full compensation and significantly reduces the burden of frivolous litigation on innocent Americans.
Another bill passed by the House this week addresses the fraud in the asbestos bankruptcy trust system that is diverting millions of dollars away from deserving victims. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, or FACT Act, is common-sense legislation that promotes transparency, discourages fraud, and protects legitimate victims of asbestos through a quarterly disclosure requirement.
The disclosure requires the same type of information that would be contained in public state court documents and is designed to be simple, safeguard the privacy of victims, and ensure that duplicitous and conflicting claims are detected and stopped. If asbestos trusts are to have assets available to pay future victims, Congress must take steps to assure that the assets are better protected today.
It is critical that we maintain a fair justice system in the United States that works for the benefit of the American people and victims, not to line the pockets of aggressive trial lawyers. Both LARA and the FACT Act are much-needed legal reforms that will help to restore accountability and Americans’ confidence in our legal system.