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Class Action Reform Bill Derailed

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Life insurance representatives are expressing dismay at a Senate vote effectively sidetracking long-sought class-action reform legislation.

“We are very disappointed,” says Bill Anderson, senior vice president of law and government relations with the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

“We have been working on this for many, many years,” Anderson says. “I thought we were close to approval in the Senate.”

Jack Dolan, a spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurers, says reform advocates are making progress, but it is unfortunate that a super-majority will be needed in the Senate to enact common sense legislation.

The class-action bill, S. 1751, would not make dramatic changes in the the legal system, Dolan says, and moreover, it enjoys widespread support among voters.

Dolan says he is confident class-action reform will happen but wishes it would happen sooner rather than later.

But Rachel Weintraub, assistant general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America, says S. 1751 would make it more difficult for consumers harmed by marketplace fraud to obtain effective and efficient judicial relief.

“Congress should seek to hold negligent wrongdoers accountable for their actions, not offer the special interests more protection,” she says.

Under S. 1751, federal courts would have jurisdiction in most major, national class-action lawsuits.

In addition, the legislation would create a class-action bill of rights to protect the interests of class members. For example, S. 1751 would mandate clear notice to individuals that they are members of the class.

In addition, it would also protect class members against financial loss based on the fees charged by the classs attorneys.

During Senate consideration of S. 1751 last week, supporters of the legislation fell one vote short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture, which would limit debate on S. 1751 and prevent opponents from filibustering it.

The final vote was 59 for cloture and 39 against. S. 1751 is unlikely to come to the floor again unless one more vote in favor of cloture can be found.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 24, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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