President Bush is wasting no time signing a bill that he says will curtail multimillion-dollar class action lawsuits against companies, reports the Associated Press. The House approved the bill by a 279-149 vote Thursday, and Bush will sign it into law today. Under the legislation, class-action suits seeking $5 million or more would be heard in state court only if the primary defendant and more than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state. Otherwise, the case would go to federal court.
Businesses for the past decade had sought to reduce their legal liability from cases where a single person or a small group can represent the interests in court of many thousands of people. They found an advocate in Bush, who described class-action suits as often frivolous. Businesses complain that state judges and juries have been too generous to plaintiffs. Consumer groups and trial lawyers fought against the bill, but lost their struggle when Republicans gained seats in last fall’s elections and Democrats defected on the issue.