Stateline.org reports that at least 18 states have passed legislation in 2011 changing the rules of the civil justice system to favor businesses, according to the American Tort Reform Association, a Washington, D.C.-based group that lobbies for such changes. The new laws run the gamut, from changes in the way class-action suits can be filed to new rules freeing property owners from liability for accidents or injuries that occur to people trespassing on their land. Though legislators from both parties supported many of the new laws, the most sweeping and controversial policies have been passed in states where Republicans recently have come into power.
“No news here: Republicans tend to be more pro-business and the Democrats tend to be pro-trial lawyers,” says Darren McKinney, a spokesman for the American Tort Reform Association. “All of it boils down, not surprisingly, to campaign contributions.” Many leading conservative organizations — from state chambers of commerce to the American Legislative Exchange Council — have been pushing lawsuit limitations for years. Business groups, meanwhile, have contributed generously to Republican campaign accounts while making no secret of their distaste for expensive lawsuits. The result is that they are now finding a much more receptive audience in statehouses where Democrats previously dominated.