The Senate has approved its version of litigation reform. And, a House-Senate conference will now iron out the differences in the two chambers’ versions. The Senate debated into the night, finally approving its version of tort reform around 9:30. There are several differences between the Senate bill and the one previously passed by the House. Senator Delbert Scott of Lowry City, the Senate sponsor, says it’s now up to the House-Senate conference to settle the differences by the end of next week so that Governor Matt Blunt can have the bill by Spring Break, which begins next Thursday. The Senate version caps non-economic damages at $350,000 while the House bill has a $250,000 cap. And, there are differences with so-called “joint & several” liability, in which a party only partly responsible for damages currently can be held liable for the entire award if other parties don’t have the means to pay. The Senate bill would require at least 51-percent liability before “joint & several” kicks in. The House bill would eliminate it completely. Both versions eliminate venue shopping, a practice in which trial attorneys shop for venues in which juries are likely to favor the plaintiffs and decide on much higher awards.
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