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Donald Trump and “Tort Reform”

President Donald Trump is not a typical Republican President and he may not toe the party line on “tort reform”. We don’t hear him speak against “junk lawsuits” the way George W. Bush did. What can we expect from the POTUS on tort issues?

Injuries from firearms: The NRA strongly supports Trump, given his promises to “protect our 2nd Amendment”. Whether that protection extends to civil lawsuits is an open question.

Class actions: Some believe there will soon be legislative and regulatory efforts aimed at curbing class actions. George W. Bush’s first bill introduced after the election in 2004 was the Class Action Fairness Act. Trump’s victory may reinvigorate this Act, but he has yet to discuss introducing legislation immunizing corporations from lawsuits and tightening restrictions on class actions.

The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2016 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, but floundered in the Senate under a certain Obama veto. The new Congress may try again soon.

Forced arbitration: Big business favors forcing litigation away from jury trials and into arbitration systems that favor big business. The new Congress and Administration may seek to slow or reverse new or proposed rules from a half-dozen federal agencies restricting arbitration clauses. This could include the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Many of Trump’s supporters and Republicans in Congress have been at odds with the pro-business Chambers of Commerce when it comes to limiting access to the courts. So what would Trump’s position be if a Republican Congress pushed through “tort reform” measures such as damages caps, forced disclosure of litigation financing contracts and court approval of legal fees? It seems unlikely that Trump would put up much of a fight against such measures.

You can expect the trial lawyers associations to do everything they can to protect civil access to justice. The trial lawyers rallied around the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Five big law litigation firms were among Clinton’s top 20 donors, contributing a combined $5 million to her presidential bid. The Clinton transition team also vetted several injury attorneys for appointments to a committee that recommends judicial nominees to the White House counsel and the president. Whether the notoriously prickly Trump attempts revenge is anyone’s guess. Stay tuned.

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