Snuffing smoking suits? Virginians urge reform; some call foul
A side battle has opened in the tobacco wars, with anti-smoking advocates furiously denouncing a bill by two Virginians designed to curb lawsuit abuses.
The measure "could equally well be called 'The Tobacco Industry Relief Act of 1999,' " tobacco-liability expert Richard A. Daynard of Northeastern University told Congress on July 21.
Reps. Robert W. Goodlatte, a Roanoke Republican, and Rick Boucher, an Abingdon Democrat, say their bill is aimed at fairness and at streamlining the ability of courts to deal with large, interstate class-action lawsuits.
By making it easier to transfer the lawsuits from state to federal courts, the bill would place them where they belong, Goodlatte said, and would help prevent abuses such as lawyers "shopping" for a sympathetic judge.
Smoking foes are protesting. They fear the bill would make it harder or nearly impossible for smokers to band together as a legal "class" or group with common claims in order to afford a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.