Tort Reform Becomes an Issue in Presidential Campaign

The issue of tort reform has been building momentum as a major issue in the presidential campaign. On February 9, in South Carolina, Texas Governor George W. Bush released his plan for reforming our nation’s civil justice system. Meanwhile, Senator John McCain has stated on several occasions that he supports an incrimental approach to the issue. Both Bill Bradley and Al Gore have remained relatively quiet on the issue. Below is a summary of how each candidate stands:

George W. Bush

Gov. Bush signs a CSE activist’s tort reform tee-shirt while campaigning in New Hampshire.

At a campaign event in South Carolina, on February 9, George W. Bush unveiled his federal tort reform plan that includes: reducing frivolous lawsuits, encouraging alternative dispute resolution, discouraging venue shopping, protecting clients from unscrupulous lawyers, and protecting taxpayers from paying unreasonable fees to private attorneys hired by the state. Bush’s entire plan is outlined in more detail in a press release found on his website.

John McCain

Sharkman appears on stage with Senator McCain during a New Hampshire McCain rally.

McCain claims to be in favor of tort reform although he has not presented a formal plan for what he would do if elected. He outlines his stance on the issue on his website by stating, “John McCain has been a leading proponent of lawsuit reform at the federal level. He recently authored the Y2K law that will help limit potential frivolous lawsuits resulting from the Y2K computer problem while also protecting the rights of those truly injured to bring a legal action. The bill addresses the needs of businesses that may find themselves as both plaintiff and defendant, by providing incentives to fix Y2K problems, not rush to the courthouse.

“John McCain has and will continue to fight to reform our nation’s product liability laws. He supports reforms that would establish a time limit on liability for most products and cap damages on small businesses. He has also worked to provide liability relief to small businesses by sponsoring legislation that limits punitive damages and eliminates joint liability for non-economic damages for small businesses that employ less than 25 people.

“John McCain also supports small business relief from ‘Superfund’ liability. He believes the law imposes too severe a penalty on small businesses. He supports changing the regulations to limit the liability of small businesses to the amount of pollution they directly caused to a site, and no more.”

Bill Bradley

Senator Bradley is welcomed at a campaign stop by CSE Stop Lawsuit Abuse signs!

Bradley does not list tort reform or lawsuit abuse as a major issue on his campaign website. However, in the past he has spoken against the issue of tort reform. While campaigning at an event in Ceder Rapids, Iowa, this past January, Bradley said, “If legislation fails, you ought to have litigation.” In front of CSE activists, he went on to say, “Litigation took place because the legislation route was blocked.”

Al Gore

Al Gore has not addressed tort reform or lawsuit abuse as a campaign issue, nor is it mentioned on his official campaign website. However, the Clinton-Gore administration has supported lawsuits against both the tobacco and gun industry.