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For Immediate Release: Lawsuit Reform Group Releases “Justice for All” Plan

LRANY

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30th, 2014
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
518.512.5265
pstonbely@lrany.org

Lawsuit Reform Group Releases “Justice for All” Plan

For Immediate Release (Albany, NY): The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), a nonprofit advocacy group focused on legal reform, released its five-point legislative agenda today, entitled “Justice for All: A Roadmap to Fix New York’s Civil Justice System.”

LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins highlighted the need for such a plan, saying “By virtually every measure, New York is the lawsuit capital of the world. We are worst in the nation for litigation risk and third highest for per-capita lawsuit costs. That costs taxpayers, kills jobs, and drives investment out of the state.” The plan addresses five areas of New York’s civil justice system which the group says contribute to lawsuit abuse and excessive litigation.

The five-point plan focuses on the following issues:

Reform the “Scaffold Law”: New York’s “Scaffold Law,” the only of its kind in the nation, imposes total and virtually inescapable civil liability upon property owners and contractors for gravity-related construction accidents. Any contributing fault of the employee for the injury is not considered in court. This has resulted in a surge of opportunistic lawsuits which have dramatically increased the cost of construction. The law must be reformed to allow liability to be apportioned according to actual fault, as is the case in all other states.

End “trial by ambush”: New York does not currently have a statewide time frame for disclosure of expert witnesses. In practice, disclosure is deliberately withheld in order to coerce defendants into a settlement without full knowledge of the strength of the case against them, which compromises parties’ right to due process. The law must be amended to require disclosure of experts prior to the point at which the case is certified as ready for trial.

Keep junk science out of the courtroom: New York’s antiquated standard of evidence predates the Great Depression, and requires only that theories of evidence be “widely accepted.” This standard is inadequate for the 21st century, and allows lawsuits predicated on unsound theories. The law must be amended to require evidentiary theories to be based on scientifically verifiable methods, as is the case Federal court and a vast majority of other states.

Link judgment interest to the market rate: In New York, judgments accrue interest at a rate of 9% annually for as long as a case is pending. This fixed rate does not account for changing market conditions, dramatically inflates award values and creates a strong disincentive for defendants to appeal a ruling. The interest rate must be linked to the federal funds rate.

Enact “fair share liability”: Under New York’s current standard of “joint and several” liability, in a lawsuit with multiple defendants, one defendant as little as 1% responsible can be held fully liable for the full amount of a judgment if the other party is unable to pay their share. New York must adopt “fair share liability,” under which liability is always apportioned proportional to fault.

Stebbins stressed the need for these reforms to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits currently advancing, and winning, in New York’s courtrooms. “We must close the loopholes in our law which allow people to abuse the legal system for profit while also preserving access to the justice system for everyone. These five reforms are critical first steps down that path.”

Stebbins highlighted the multi-billion dollar benefits of legal reform, including the creation of as many as 200,000 new jobs, $1.04 billion in new tax revenues, and $17 billion in increased economic output. “For years, New Yorkers have been calling for common sense measures to curb lawsuit abuse. Now our elected officials have a roadmap for achieving that goal.”

The 5-point plan can be accessed here.

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The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

PDF Press Release

-MEDIA ADVISORY- “JUSTICE FOR ALL,” A SOLUTION FOR “SUE YORK” TO BE RELEASED TOMORROW

LRANY

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For Release: Monday, September 29, 2014
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
518.512.5265
pstonbely@lrany.org

-MEDIA ADVISORY-
“JUSTICE FOR ALL,” A SOLUTION FOR “SUE YORK” TO BE RELEASED TOMORROW

Albany, NY: New York State is often dubbed “Sue York” and is widely regarded as the most litigious state in the most litigious nation in the world. Lawsuit abuse is rampant, plaguing our economy and costing all New Yorkers. Tomorrow, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) will release a five-point plan designed to address the imbalances in New York’s civil justice system. The plan focuses on five areas of concern, including: the “Scaffold Law,” expert witness disclosure, standards of evidence, interest on legal judgments, and “fair-share liability.” The five-point plan illustrates how simple common sense changes can reduce lawsuit abuse, boost New York’s economy by over a billion dollars and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins will be available for interview to discuss:

“Justice for All: A Roadmap to Fix New York’s Civil Justice System.”

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Contact Phoebe Stonbely: pstonbely@lrany.org or 518.512.5265 to set up an interview.

Link to PDF Media Advisory

LRANY Video Series: Interest on Judgments

This week, to continue the LRANY video series, we bring to you a video interest on judgments.  Currently, defendants must pay interest on judgments at a fixed rate of 9%, which is significantly higher than the market rate. This rate forces defendants to settle meritless lawsuits rather than risk paying the exorbitant interest rate. The current practice inflates the value of judgments beyond the real value intended by the jury, and drives up costs to local governments and taxpayers.

LRANY supports commonsense legislation (S.3114 (Griffo))which ties the rate of interest on judgments to the prevailing market interest rate.  This legislation would improve fairness in litigation, ensure a defendants’ right to due process and reduce costs to taxpayers.

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Assemblyman Morelle Introduces Key Tort Reform Legislation

By: Scott Hobson

On Tuesday, state assemblyman and chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, Joseph Morelle (D, Irondequoit) introduced legislation which would bring New York’s astronomical interest rate on judgments in line with market rates. The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Joseph Griffo (R, Utica), Chair of the Senate Banking Committee.

In New York and most other states, interest accrues on a judgment from the date the judgment is made. This makes sense – it ensures that the monetary award will not lose real value if the case is appealed or payment is delayed for some other reason. A reasonable rate of interest on judgments is critical to ensuring that victims are fairly compensated.

But while the markets rise and fall, New York’s rate of interest on judgments stays fixed at 9%.  You won’t find a return that high in this market – it’s more than ten times the current federal funds rate. It represents a major windfall to plaintiffs – they end up receiving more than the jury intended.

This can create serious access to justice issues. The appeal process can take years, and as the size of the award grows, so too does the cost of getting justice. The potentially high cost of losing an appeal can force defendants to simply settle, even if they feel they have a strong case.

Assemblyman Morelle and Senator Griffo support linking the rate of interest on judgments to the market rate, a rational approach which treats both sides fairly. We applaud their leadership – this is the kind of common sense reform that New York has long needed.