Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bill 'hijacked' by amendments from trial lawyers

A bill intended to strengthen the law in favor of first responders hurt in the line of duty has been hijacked according to the sponsor of the bill. But the mother of a murdered police officer said the bill must pass.

The bill is meant to increase penalties for reckless drivers who injure first responders, but an amendment is causing controversy.

"Unfortunately, the bill has been polluted by at least two amendments," said Rep. Will Tallman (R-Adams/York), the bill's sponsor.

Tallman kicked off the more than two hours of testimony before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. But criticizing the new amendment, an amendment added to House Bill 2246 by the Trial Lawyers Association, allows attorneys to suggest to the jury how much pain and suffering is worth monetarily in auto-related civil cases.

"To suggest what a pain and suffering amendment would be would not be fact or evidence, rather opinion," said Stuart Setcavage, of State Farm Insurance.

"It's going to affect our bottom line, because of increased insurance costs," said Mark Campbell, of H.F. Campbell & Son, Inc.

Small businesses and insurance companies testified premiums could skyrocket because of an increase in verdicts. Some senators questioned why tack on this type of amendment that would benefit trial lawyers financially and disrupt the bill's original intention.

"Because so many of the states already have this amendment as a law, they're surprised we don't," said Kim Weigand, whose son was killed in the line of duty.

Her son, Sgt. Michael Weigand, died almost one year ago Tuesday as he rode a motorcycle as an escort in a charity bike ride. She is for the bill with the amendment and doesn't want it passing any other way.

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By Annie McCormick


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