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Tort reform deal reached in House of Delegates

A broad spectrum of tort reform measures – many reflecting compromise among stakeholders – is expected to be presented to legislators today for action at the General Assembly.

Negotiators say the tort reform package negotiated by business interests, trial lawyers and physicians will be unveiled at a House Courts subcommittee this afternoon.

The centerpiece of the package is a pair of proposals that amount to a crack in the wall barring the use of depositions for summary judgment motions in Virginia civil practice. One proposal would allow depositions for summary judgment on claims for punitive damages in non-DUI cases, according to Del. Gregory Habeeb, R-Salem, who has been involved in the negotiations.

Another measure – offered by Habeeb – would allow requests for admission derived from deposition testimony to be used for summary judgment.

Other changes to civil practice with the tort reform package would tighten rules intended to prevent forum shopping by plaintiffs suing big businesses and would make it easier for defendants to recover expenses when plaintiffs take last-minute nonsuits.

The compromise would provide some added protection for landowners in suits by injured trespassers and would authorize judges to examine a medical malpractice plaintiff’s expert certification for good cause.

Other measures that may be included would address changes in the starting point for the statute of limitations in certain actions.

Under the negotiated deal, bills to increase the cap on punitive damages in Virginia and to cut the time period for service of process after the filing of a lawsuit will be allowed to die in this session.

“Both sides got a little of what they were looking for,” Habeeb said.

UPDATE: The compromise tort reform package was presented Wednesday afternoon. Read the full story

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