UPDATE: Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act

UPDATE: Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act

Legislative change is underway with the reintroduction of LARA – now known as HB 758. ASCA Executive Director Kevin Gilbride outlines the bill's path, the impact it will have on the industry and what you can do to assist in the process.

March 20, 2015

Every once in a while, you get a pleasant surprise. That happened this week when I learned the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act has been reintroduced in Congress. I say Congress, because it has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

The Accredited Snow Contractors Association has long been a supporter off this bill, and in the last session of Congress we helped get this bill through the U.S. House of Representatives (it passed the House in November, 2013 by a vote of 228 for/195 against).

As we all know, the Senate did not introduce much legislation last session, and therefore, any bill that had not fully passed, is automatically killed. Therefore, even bills that have passed the House of Representatives in another session, like this bill did, needed to start the process over.

Initially, we had heard the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act would be reintroduced by midsummer. So it is nice to see this critical bill introduced very early in this session of Congress.

The bill
The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA) is now known as House Bill 758.

LARA would change Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The change would make it mandatory for judges in federal courts to impose sanctions on people and attorney’s who are found to have filed frivolous lawsuits. This sanction would include paying the defense attorney’s fees.

This law puts teeth back into the rules of civil procedure. If people have some skin in the game, they are much less likely to file a lawsuit, especially one which is completely frivolous.

The impact on the professional snow and ice management industry

There are more than 30,000 slip-and-fall claims against snow and ice management companies each season. Of those, 35 percent are outright dismissed. Minimally, LARA would be addressing these claims – the 35 percent that are obviously frivolous. However, as many of you know, many, many more are frivolous, making the overall impact of LARA on this industry closer to a 50 percent improvement.

Each year nearly $500,000,000 is spent defending and settling claims for snow and ice related slip-and-falls. Reducing this number by 50 percent is a huge step in the right direction.

The ASCA has publically supported this bill for the better part of three years. We have lobbied our representatives in Washington for this bill. We have provided testimony to Congress to support this bill. Once the 2015 version was introduced, the ASCA again contacted the U.S. House of Representatives and publically put our support behind this bill.

What you can do
The ASCA and our members continue to educate our elected officials on the benefits of this bill. You can do the same. You can join us in Washington D.C. on July 20th and 21st to help us educate your representatives on the benefits of this bill.

If you are not already, you can join ASCA and get up to speed on our entire government affairs initiatives, and get involved.

Many have questioned whether we can make these changes happen. We got a third of the way there last time. This time we have a much better chance. Those who are involved in our efforts have learned that we do have a voice, and it is our responsibility to use it.

I have said before on this topic: If not you, then who?