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Tort reform battle ahead for Assembly

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce is out with its legislative wish list for the 2013 General Assembly and tort reform measures loom large on the Chamber agenda.

The Chamber will continue efforts to change Virginia’s 40-year practice of barring depositions from summary judgment motions, an issue already aired in a July 18 hearing.

The chamber hopes to limit the ability of a plaintiff to take a nonsuit in the late stages of a lawsuit and expand the ability of the defense to collect attorneys’ fees and expenses when plaintiffs take such a voluntary dismissal of right. Current law “effectively allows plaintiffs to take a ‘do-over’ after the defendant has expended significant resources preparing for trial,” the Chamber’s statement says.

Chamber goals include laws to further limit “forum shopping” and to require service of process within 90 days in most cases.

Although it does not fit precisely in the tort reform category, the Chamber will push for a fee schedule or other cost control measures to reduce the size of medical payments for workers’ compensation claims. The Chamber says Virginia medical payments per claim are almost 59 percent above the national average.

House Courts chair David Albo, R-Springfield, said recently he expects a tough battle over the tort reform measures.

Jack Harris, executive director of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, said his group is ready for the fray. He said Virginia is already regarded as a business friendly litigation climate, with efficient case resolution and low insurance premiums.

“Anything that is ‘tort reform’ is just another effort to unbalance a playing field that is already tilted heavily toward business,” Harris said.

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