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Senate OKs Class-Action Suit Limits

The Nation

Republicans hope the measure, which won bipartisan approval, builds momentum for their agenda. Foes call it an 'anti-consumer' bill.

February 11, 2005|Maura Reynolds | Times Staff Writer

Republican leaders said they put the class-action bill at the top of the agenda because it had the most support among Democrats. The next piece of legal legislation before the Senate is a bill that would make it harder for companies and individuals to escape debts by declaring bankruptcy.

Under the proposal, debtors would have to pass a "means test." If their income is greater than the country's median income, they could not seek bankruptcy protection.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday February 25, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 134 words Type of Material: Correction
Class-action suits -- An article in the Feb. 11 Section A about Senate passage of class-action lawsuit legislation said such suits would be heard in state courts rather than federal courts only if the damages sought were less than $5 million and more than two-thirds of the plaintiffs were from the same state. In fact, only one of the following conditions had to apply for a case to be heard in state court: if damages sought were less than $5 million; if more than two-thirds of the plaintiffs were from the same state as the defendant and the suit was filed in that state; or if more than two-thirds of the plaintiffs were from the state in which the suit was filed and the injuries for which they were suing occurred in that state.

"The vast majority of people believe that individuals who file for bankruptcy should be required to pay back some of their debts if they have the means to do so," the bill's author, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), said at a hearing to debate provisions of the legislation. "This is precisely what the bankruptcy reform legislation does."

The issue has been under consideration for years, but legislation has been stymied by a provision, introduced by Sen. Charles D. Schumer (D-N.Y.), that would prevent antiabortion activists from declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying damages when a court fines them for violence or other disruptions at abortion clinics.

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