By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 7, 2018) — A bill to allow a constitutional amendment to give voters, via their elected representatives, the ability to make the state’s legal environment more competitive cleared its first legislative hurdle, passing through the Senate State and Local Government Committee Wednesday.
Senate Bill 2, filed by state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, would allow the General Assembly to establish thresholds on jury-awarded damages—giving Kentuckians the power to determine the state’s legal liability climate.
Currently, there is no limit on these claims in the state, and awards can run into the millions of dollars.
Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson testified in favor of Senate Bill 2 in committee, stating that for most Kentucky businesses and health care providers, “it isn’t a question of if they will face a lawsuit from the powerful trial attorney bar, but when.”
“Make no mistake – the legal liability climate is an economic growth and development issue,” Adkisson said. “The current system creates challenges for Kentucky businesses and acts as a barrier to economic development, limiting the commonwealth’s ability to attract and foster the next generation of employers, health care providers, and innovators.”
Both Alvarado and Adkisson said Kentucky’s current atmosphere is holding the state back and not allowing needed economic growth as many providers and businesses choose to not locate in Kentucky because of it.
Alvarado stressed if the legislation passes, it will ultimately be up to the state’s voters to decide the issue.
Senate Bill 2 now moves to the full Senate for a vote on the floor.
Reforms to the legal liability system
As Kentucky continues to rank among the worst states in the country for legal liability climate, a bill to bring reforms to the legal liability system in the state passed through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday.
Senate Bill 20, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, is an omnibus bill including reforms such as affidavit of merit to reduce the number of frivolous claims, peer review protections, caps on attorney’s contingency fees to ensure the injured party receives the majority of the money in a settlement, and statement of sympathy language that allows medical providers to show compassion in the event of a patient’s death without the fear of a lawsuit claiming they are at fault.
Alvarado pointed to Delaware’s standing as the top-ranking state for legal liability many years in a row and said his bill will mirror the policies Delaware has in place in order to improve Kentucky’s climate.
Senate Bill 20 now moves to the full Senate for a vote on the floor.
Asbestos Litigation Standards
Legislation to bring changes to the way asbestos-related lawsuits are handled in the state passed through the House Banking and Insurance Committee Tuesday.
House Bill 293, sponsored by Rep. Joe Fischer, seeks to establish several protections and bring transparency to ensure that asbestos victims in Kentucky are fairly compensated.
Protections in the bill include ending double-dipping of claims, preventing fraud in civil litigation, and preserving assets needed to compensate deserving victims.
Proponents of the bill stated the current atmosphere has forced more than 100 Kentucky companies into bankruptcy as a result of asbestos-related litigation due to abuse of the system with a lack of transparency.
House Bill 293 now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.