Tort reform bill headed to House floor

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On the last day of the 2011 regular session, the omnibus torts bill generated several hours of debate on the House floor before being tabled. It appears the bill will be the body’s first bill to be considered this session. However, most of its provisions have been eliminated.

Rep. Doug Wardlow (R-Eagan), the sponsor of HF211/ SF149*, told the House Ways and Means Committee that his delete-all amendment strips all but two provisions from the bill, and called it largely noncontroversial, having been vetted by committee last year. The committee approved the new House language and moved it to the House floor where it is expected to be acted upon Wednesday.

In addition to increasing the threshold for filing a civil action in conciliation court from $7,500 to $10,000, the bill would address the right of appeal in class action suits by permitting a court’s order related to certification of a class to be appealed before the case moves forward. Wardlow said this will expedite the process, saving the state approximately $41,000 annually. Existing court rules permit appeal of class certification orders upon application of a party in the case but the Court of Appeals is not required to hear the appeal, according to nonpartisan House Research Department documents.

Under the bill, while an appeal is pending, all proceedings must stop, including discovery, but the court may lift the stay, if good cause is shown.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson, Sr. (DFL-Crystal) said this takes discretion away from the court in allowing whether preparation for a possible suit can take place during the stay.

Sen. Julianne Ortmann (R-Chanhassen) sponsors the bill in the Senate, where the original passed 36-29 last May.