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Governors and tort reform: How about the English Rule?

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, a lawyer, broadcast Thursday from the Republican Governors Association meeting in San Diego. He asked his guests about tort reform.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels:

HH: You could adopt the English rule. You can do anything you want. What do you want to do?

MD: Well, I think the English rule is an interesting, would be an interesting next step. Indiana's got a good tort law. It's one of those reasons we are now at the top of everybody's lists of good states to do business. You will not be abused in an Indiana courtroom. And our courts have been, as I see it, faithful to their duty on their end. So we're a very positive state in this regard. But we could be better. And of course, the English rule, which I believe is the rule in most of the world, they should call ours the American rule, I think...

HH: Yeah.

MD: ...because we're the outlier, aren't we, in the way we do it?

HH: Yes.

MD: And it would be a nice improvement for any of our states.

Governor-elect John Kasich of Ohio:

HH: What are you going to do about this? What needs to be done in Ohio?

JK: Well, we've made some progress on it, actually. But I'm going to dig in. I mean, look, my dad was a mailman. If I'd ask my dad, dad, something happened, who do we sue, my dad would have probably put me in my room for a week. I mean, it wasn't the culture of that. So I'm willing to crack down. I have no love affair with the trial lawyers. I don't think they like me that much, either.

HH: Did they try and beat you?

JK: Well, every left...look, every left wing group in America tried to beat me. Obama was in twelve times. You know, I was thinking today, when he runs for reelection, he won't even come to Ohio twelve times. I mean, I think we've seen as much of him as possible, you know? So no, I mean, with the trial lawyers, the thing that people have to realize is all these lawsuits just cost us all money. I mean, come on, get over it. You know, get over all these suits. If it's something really egregious and terrible, fine. I believe in loser pays.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty:

HH: Permanent. Now I'm talking to a lot of the governors today, the incoming ones especially, about what they can do in their state with Republican legislatures to fix the business climate, especially with regard to tort reform. You never had a legislature on your side.

TP: Yeah, but we did get tort reform, believe it or not. I had Republican, one part of the legislature for part of my time as governor. And by the way, these Republican governors who are coming in are just fabulous, and in many cases, they've got Republican legislatures. You're going to see a transformative era in American politics and policy coming out of the states that will inform the nation. And I think it's going to be a really historic time. And you're going to love these new governors. And as to tort reform in Minnesota, we did joint and several liability reform, I won't bore your listeners with the details, but it was a major change in our tort reform policies. And we also have done in the past some medical malpractice reform in Minnesota, and we've got lower than average medical malpractice costs as a result.

The President of the National Association of Manufacturers, John Engler, was on Hewitt's show just after the elections and was asked about tort reform from his perspective as the former governor of Michigan. I've posted the transcript at Shopfloor, the NAM's blog, here.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.