BRT President John Engler moderated a discussion Wednesday at the 12th annual Legal Reform Summit sponsored by the U.S. Chamber's Institue for Legal Reform (ILR). The participants, including Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made it clear: Tort reform can improve business climates and job creation in the states.
In his opening comments, Engler, a former three-term governor of Michigan, observed that civil justice reform is a long-term project for states. Advocates need solid data with which to persuade lawmakers and the public, the ability to humanize their case, and the willingness to fight the political battles at election time and in the legislatures.
Paul Hinton, a vice president with NERA Economic Consulting, released a working paper, Creating Conditions for Economic Growth: The Role of the Legal Environment (available here), that used a new econometric model to demonstrate that states with high tort costs can improve employment by undertaking civil justice reforms. Dick Trabulsi, president of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, described the group's 16 years of work to transform the state's legal climate from a capricious one, dominated by trial lawyers and hostile to business, to a model for other states and indeed, national reform. Among the states, Texas is a leading jobs creator, and tort reform is a big reason why.
Joining the panel, Gov. McDonnell identified the many reforms Virginia's legislators had enacted over the years -- limits on junks science, for example -- identifying one he's still seeking to pass: Did you know that Virginia is the only state that does not allow the use of depositions in summary judgment? In his closing remarks, the Republican called for a "healthy balance" between individual liberties with the need to seek legal redress if wronged and the importance of creating opportunity and employment. McDonnell:
There’s obviously frustration on the right and the left about what’s happening in our country: And it’s uncertainty and unpredictability and absolutely inept policies when it comes to job creation, energy, and the things that are going to continue to make America the greatest country in the world.
We’ve got to do better, and a piece of that is creating this certainty in the regulatory and litigation environments.
The Institute for Legal Reform has other coverage and reports of Wednesday's event here. Excellent discussions, including warnings about the rise of third-party financing of litigation (see post, "Panel at Legal Reform Summit Addresses Commercialization of the Practice of Law"). Another panel on "unwelcome lawsuit trends" featured presentations by Honeywell's general counsel, Kate Adams, on lawsuits -- primarily in Illinois -- against companies that have no proven responsibilities for the plaintiffs’ alleged asbestos exposures, litigation based on a dubious “civil conspiracy” doctrine; John Bellinger, former legal advisor to the State Department now with Arnold & Porter, on transnational tort cases involving the Alien Tort Statute; and the Manhattan Institute's Jim Copland on the institute's new report, "Trial Lawyers Inc.: Attorneys General – A Report on the Alliance between State AGs and the Plaintiffs' Bar 2011."
Gov. Bob McDonnell (left) and Business Roundtable President John Engler.
Thanks to Kevin Madden, Jonathan Karl and Stephanie Cutter for talking about crisis communications this week at BRT. http://t.co/cmakALRJS8
Trade supports 1 in 5 U.S. jobs. Time for Trade Promotion Authority. http://t.co/OP1zBl4IJe
You may also be interested in the following related articles on Business Roundtable Today…
Search the Business Roundtable Today archive for interesting content.