May 10, 1995 in Nation/World

Senate Trims Back Tort Reform

New York Times

After two weeks of contentious negotiations to fashion a measure intended to limit the number of civil lawsuits in the nation, the Senate on Tuesday settled on a bill remarkably like the relatively narrow measure it took up when the process began.

In a voice vote, the Senate approved an amendment to limit the amount of punitive damages that juries may award, but only in cases involving faulty products, covering items as diverse as power drills and artificial respirators. The Senate is expected to pass the measure today.

If the Senate bill passes, it would mean that for the first time both houses of Congress have agreed to set nationwide standards in some lawsuits brought to recover damages for civil wrongs.

Even so, the Senate bill would have to be reconciled with a far broader bill passed by the House, which would limit damages in all civil suits in federal and state courts. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the Republican leader, tried to expand the legislation to match the House version, but his colleagues resisted that approach.

House and Senate negotiators could meet as early this summer to draw up a compromise.

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