March 14, 1996 in Nation/World

Compromise Reached On Bill Limiting Product Lawsuits

New York Times
 

House and Senate negotiators reached final agreement Wednesday on a compromise measure to limit lawsuits involving faulty products, setting up a critical vote in the Senate next week.

The negotiators finished work on the legislation after House Republicans earlier this month ended their insistence that the law be a broad overhaul of the nation’s civil litigation system, ending an impasse of nearly a year.

The bill would for the first time set nationwide limits on money awarded for injuries from products as diverse as food blenders, prescription drugs, heart valves and automobiles.

The new measure will be voted on early next week in the Senate, where a bipartisan coalition supporting the measure is extremely fragile.

Lobbyists for the measure’s opponents, principally trial lawyers and consumer advocacy groups, have said they will work to pick off a vote or two.

But Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., who has been pressing for years to limit liability in lawsuits involving faulty products, said the bill would receive the 60 votes needed to cut off a prolonged debate certain to be staged by its opponents.

White House officials have said that Clinton could sign into law a measure that set nationwide standards for bringing lawsuits over flawed products. But the officials also said that they would oppose legislation that set definite caps on punitive damages in such suits.


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