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2013-11-21

House approves Smith bill to combat lawsuit abuse

Special to the Courier

On Thursday, Nov. 14, the House of Representatives approved a bill introduced by Congressman Lamar Smith to reduce frivolous lawsuits that plague this nation's legal system.
Introduced in July, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act - HR 2655 - imposes mandatory sanctions on lawyers who file meritless suits in federal court. The House passed the bill by a vote of 228-195.
"Lawsuit abuse is common in America because the lawyers who bring these frivolous cases have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Lawyers can file meritless lawsuits, and defendants are faced with the choice of years of litigation, high court costs and attorneys' fees or a settlement out of court," Smith said, describing the situation as "legalized extortion."
According to Smith, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA) would restore accountability to the legal system by imposing mandatory sanctions on attorneys who file worthless lawsuits.
"By approving LARA, the House has taken an important step toward improving our legal system and protecting innocent individuals and businesses from facing frivolous suits," Smith continued. "I urge the Senate to do the same to ensure that our justice system is not just another tool for those who line their pockets by filing frivolous suits."
Every year, billions of dollars are wasted on so-called nuisance lawsuits, forcing individuals and businesses to spend thousands of dollars on litigation. This ultimately costs jobs and damages the economy because money that could be spent hiring new employees or investing in new businesses is instead directed toward legal fees. The annual direct cost of American tort litigation exceeds $250 billion.
To restore accountability to the legal system, Smith's bill:
• Reinstates sanctions for the violation of Rule 11. Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was originally intended to deter frivolous lawsuits by sanctioning the offending party.
• Ensures that judges impose monetary sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits, including the attorney's fees and costs incurred by the victim of the frivolous lawsuit.
• Reverses the 1993 amendments to Rule 11 that allow parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions for making frivolous claims by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.