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“Tort reform” bill is bad for small business, consumer advocate says

(6/4/2023) -- Jamie Court, a nationally known consumer activist and commentator, recently discussed how tort reform legislation may hurt small business. Court spoke on National Public Radio’s Marketplace program about U.S. Senate leaders’ announcement to take up tort reform as soon as next week. According to Court, the bill would shift cases against interstate corporations from state to federal courts. Court said that boosters of the bill argue businesses shouldn't have to wage battles in 50 separate states, especially those where juries tend to be generous. But the momentum behind tort reform “speaks volumes” about how business is done in Washington, according to Court.

Court said small businesses depend on class-action lawsuits to fight big companies that try to rip them off or shut them down. He used as an example Louisiana crawfish farmers, who filed a class-action against one out-of-state pesticide manufacturer, whose chemicals wiped out tens of millions of pounds of crawfish and threatened their livelihood. Court added that California small businesses successfully gained up on Microsoft for price gouging via a state class-action lawsuit.

“The federal legislation, likely to pass in the name of business, would stop all state class-action lawsuits against big out-of-state corporations,” said Court. “Small businesses would have to refile in overcrowded federal courts, where criminal cases take priority, judges are overworked and short on time and a number of judicial vacancies guarantees big companies can stonewall justice,” he added. “The whole point is to make it easier for big, interstate corporations to defend themselves. That's not good for small businesses that sue them. But those small businesses don't have the campaign cash to do much business in Washington. In an election year, that's the only business that counts.”

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