BATON ROUGE — A new bill passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives would make the lawyers who file allegedly frivolous lawsuits accountable.
The bill, House Resolution 720, which passed by a vote of 230-188 on March 10, is known as the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, or LARA, according to a report on Bloomberg BNA. The bill, if signed into law, would make sanctions mandatory on attorneys who file suits that have no merit in order to protect business and individuals from undue legal costs. Currently, the imposition of sanctions in at the discretion of federal judges.
The bill has moved to the Senate for a vote.
“Frivolous lawsuits have become commonplace in our legal system, sucking up valuable time and resources that could be spent on legitimate cases helping real victims,” Melissa Landry, executive director at the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, told the Louisiana Record in a statement.
HR 720, which was spearheaded by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would impose penalties even if the lawsuits are withdrawn to avoid sanctions.
“Under current rules, renegade lawyers can avoid sanctions for making baseless claims by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served,” Landry said.
According to the bill's language, HR 720 would force monetary sanctions on the attorneys who file these types of suits on behalf of their clients in the form of attorney fees and compensatory costs.
“A large part of the reason why our system is overly burdened with meritless suits is because the existing rules and sanctions are ineffective at discouraging them,” Landry said. “Simply put, we’ve made it too easy for personal-injury lawyers to exploit the system. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose. That’s why we need reform.”
The bill was met with opposition, and several legislators proposed amendments to the bill. All of the amendments were defeated and, according to Bloomberg BNA, the bill passed without much fanfare. Five Republicans voted against it, while three Democrats voted in favor.
“While LARA will only impact federal suits, these reforms are much-needed,” Landry said. “LLAW applauds the members of the Louisiana House delegation who voted for LARA including: Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre; Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Benton; Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Mangham; and Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge. We hope the Senate will quickly consider these important reforms and send them to the president’s desk."