Plaintiff and consumer groups, buoyed by prospects of a Democratic president and expanded Democratic majority in Congress, are preparing a big push for legislation that would roll back limitations on personal-injury and class-action lawsuits.
The plaintiffs bar's legislative wish-list includes limiting companies' use of federal regulations as a shield from litigation under state law, and laws to end mandatory arbitration in consumer contracts, opening potential new avenues for civil lawsuits.
The legal industry's fund raising for Democratic candidates and political action committees is on pace to exceed the $137 million raised in 2004, as pro-plaintiff groups see a rare political opportunity. "We've been back on our end of the field for too long," said Ed Mierzwinksi of U.S. PIRG, a consumer-advocacy group. "Now we do have a chance to throw deep."
That has unnerved "tort-reform" advocates, who have sought limits on civil litigation.
"The impending election portends a perfect storm that will engulf business interests," said Lester Brickman, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York. He warned of the "most significant enlargement of tort liability since the 1960s."
Plaintiffs groups have also been quietly building their case against the use of mandatory-arbitration clauses in consumer contracts. Over the past decade, credit cards, technology and telecom companies have increasingly required customers to waive rights to jury trials and class-action suits. Democrats have tried to eliminate the clauses in everything from nursing-home contracts to meatpacker-company agreements. "The trial lawyers used the last Congress to learn where the soft spots were," said Mr. Schwartz, the tort-reform advocate.
Law firms and lawyers gave $181 million to Democratic and Republican candidates in the current election cycle through Oct. 19, according to the Center for Responsible Politics, putting it on pace to surpass the $183 million donated in 2004 and up from $120 million in 2006. About 75% of all donations in the current cycle have gone to Democrats. The AAJ, the largest single contributor, has given $2.5 million to candidates, with about 95% going to Democrats.
Sen. Obama has raised $28 million from the industry, compared to Sen. McCain's $9 million.
Read the entire article at WSJ.
An Obama Administration is going to be very, very expensive. Not to mention unpleasant.
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