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July 27, 2008

U.S. Chamber Exposes Breadth of Trial Lawyers’ Earmarks in Congressional Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A Web site and media campaign exposing the vast number of liability expanding provisions slipped into key legislation by the plaintiffs’ trial bar was launched today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR).

The site, www.TrialLawyerEarmarks.com, illustrates the breadth and scope of the trial lawyer agenda through a tangle of vines overtaking the U.S. Capitol Building.  The vines, rooted in areas of law the plaintiffs’ trial bar is working to revise in order to bring more lawsuits, highlight and monitor the 48 trial lawyer provisions currently pending in the 110th Congress.

“The plaintiffs’ trial bar has found a pastime almost as enjoyable as filing lawsuits: convincing Congress to pass legislation allowing them to file more lawsuits,” said ILR President Lisa A. Rickard.  “This legislative session, they have tucked trial lawyer ‘earmarks’—vehicles giving them greater opportunity to sue—into a large number of bills now before Congress.”

Noting that the out-of-control U.S. lawsuit system already costs the average American family of four $3,200 every year, Rickard said, “The trial lawyer industry will never be satisfied with the amount and scope of lawsuits they are able to file.  If we ignore this growing threat and allow their lawsuit-expanding agenda to envelop Congress, Americans will pay an even higher price through lost jobs, higher prices and clogged courtrooms.”

This session, liability expanding language has been tucked into everything from homeland security and farm bills, to FDA reauthorization and telecom legislation.  In addition, tax breaks that apply only to trial lawyers have been added to tax and mortgage relief bills.  Most notably, this includes a provision in the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049), which would grant a $1.6 billion tax break to trial lawyers by changing the rules on how expenses incurred during the representation of a contingency fee client are deducted.

“The deep pockets of the plaintiffs’ trial bar have persuaded some members of Congress that America needs more lawsuits.  In addition to fighting back against each individual earmark, we must also uproot the trial bar’s stranglehold on this Congress in order to protect American businesses and families from the costs of more lawsuits,” Rickard concluded.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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