NU Online News Service, June 15, 1:35 p.m. — Ramani Ayer, chairman of The Hartford Financial Services Group, Hartford, says insurance companies and independent agents need to work together to fight class-action lawsuit abuse.

Ayer says Congress should act to keep class-action suits from clogging the courts, depleting court resources and running up attorneys’ fees, according to a summary of remarks Ayer made in Orlando at the Florida Association of Independent Agents?f annual conference.

Until recently, Ayer told the independent agents, companies waged most courtroom battles on a case-by-case basis, so damage from a single adverse decision was limited.

“With class-action lawsuits,” he said “there is a multiplier effect: even cases with very nominal damages to individual class members can result in billion-dollar verdicts against the defendants.”

Companies targeted by class-action suits that lack merit often settle rather than risk bankruptcy, Ayer said.

Ayer called upon the Florida agents to lobby legislators for support of the upcoming federal class-action reform legislation in Congress, and explain the issue to community and civic organizations.

Ayer also praised the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its effort to promote the election and appointment of judges who will uphold litigation reform.