Legislative / Regulatory

MACPA testifies against comparative fault in the Senate

Today, I joined more than 20 other panelists to testify in opposition to SB 267, the Comparative Negligence Act. The bill was heard before the Senate  Judicial Proccedings Committee.

Here is why we are against this bill:

  • More lawsuits with more egregious settlements and awards casued by the more liberal doctrine of comparative fault.
  • Increased costs for professional liability insurane premiums and significantly higher defense costs when you are sured under this new complex twist to Maryland tort law.
  • Another anti-business policy that puts Maryland businesses at a competitive disadvantage aginst surrounding states (Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina) who still have contributory negligence doctrines.

The Comparative Fault Act would change Maryland's long-standing civil justice principal of contributory negligence which says that plaintiffs cannot collect damages if their negligence contributed to their own injury. The trial lawyers aggressively are promoting the more liberal approach of comparative fault whcih says that liability will be allocated among the parties. This means plaintiffs can file more lawsuits with more damages even when they are significantly at fault themselves.

Our main points were as follows:

  • Increased lawsuits caused by this will increase costs to Maryland small businesses and Maryland CPA firms, making this effectively a lawsuit tax.
  • The hidden cost of defending more lawsuits to Maryland small businesses and CPA firms is the extraordinary amount of time management and executives have to spend managing these claims, meeting with lawyers and insurance representatives.
  • There is no demonstrated public need to change Maryland's tort system.
  • This proposal adds one more anti-business policy that will make Maryland less attractive to business. (Our most fierce competitive states -- Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina -- all have our current system of contributory fault.)

For more information, see our legislative position paper here.

The group opposing thls legislation included panels of Maryland's largest employers, large corporations, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Maryland Association of Counties, and even the State of Maryland Treasurer!

The primary issues is the increased number of lawsuits that would ocurr due to the more complex and easier to argue "comparative fault" doctrine. This would have a detrimental effect on businesses that would see a rise in claims and lawsuits. The insurance industry testified that insurance rates would in fact increase as soon as this legislation was passed.

Attached is our letter of opposition: Download frosh_sb_267.doc

Help us defeat this by writing or calling members of the Senate Judical Proceedings Committee to vote against the lawsuit tax -- SB 267!