STATE TORT LAW REFORM: 1987 WILL BE "WATERSHED KIND OF YEAR,"
STATE TORT LAW REFORM: 1987 WILL BE "WATERSHED KIND OF YEAR," Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association VP for State Government Affairs Woodrow Allen maintained at a Nov. 25 press briefing at PMA headquarters. Allen suggested that states next year will continue the legislative activity of 1986, when "30 states considered tort reform legislation . . . and 19 have actually enacted changes to their tort law." Ten states modified or eliminated joint and several liability, eight states capped noneconomic damage awards, eight modified or eliminated punitive damages, eight enacted bills to permit periodic payments or structured settlements, and six modified or abolished the collateral source rule, which prohiits juries from reducing from compensatory damages amounts victims collect from sources such as insurance or workers compensation. "Obviously some of these changes," Allen said, "are very important to us." Earlier this year the PMA board made product liability "a major priority for us in our state government affairs activities," Allen noted. "We've identified 17 priority states where tort reform legislation is being pursued by a variety of groups -- municipalities, the doctors, small businesses, and so on." In forming coalitions with such groups, PMA has "been working very actively," for example, supporting them by "actually retaining counsel in states where we need counsel." PMA has focused its lobbying energies on the states with regard to tort reform legislation because it has apparently given up on federal legislation. Last year a number of key Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said they would support a product liability bill much more restricted in scope than one which was introduced in the Commerce Committee. Federal product liability legislation is one bill whose chances for passage have been diminished by the Democratic takeover of the Senate, VP for Congressional Relations E. Geoffrey Littlehale maintained. Even last year "chances were not terribly good" for the Senate Commerce Committee bill, he said. Because most sponsors of the bill are Republicans and because Sen. Hollings (D-S.C.), a strong opponent of such legislation, is in line to chair the Commerce Committee, it is "much less likely . . . that an omnibus product liability bill will be enacted by the Congress," Littlehale said. Overall, PMA's state staff and its member companies "dealt with about 70 major legislative and regulatory industry-specific issues in 37 different states" during 1986, Allen said. The "overriding" issue for PMA state government efforts is "the whole cost-containment area," Allen said. "We had various kinds of cost-containment proposals in 19 different states this year. Those proposals ranged from . . . proposed budget cuts affecting the Medicaid drug program to state Medicaid formulary restrictions to state MAC programs," he said. Another "major area" of activity was drug smpling, Allen continued. "We had sampling legislation or regulation proposed in nine states"; the proposals ranged from a complete ban on samples -- as legislated in Georgia -- to very strict controls on samples -- as was the case in Washington state, he said. Generic drug law amendments represented another major issue for PMA last year. "The key provision, as you know, from our point of view and from the medical association's point of view, is to retain the two-line Rx form so that when a doctor does prescribe a drug, he or she can make a conscious decision as to whether or not a generic substitution is advisable for a particular patient," Allen said. "We have legislation that would eliminate those two-line Rx form laws in several states. All of them have been defeated thus far, but legislation still is pending in New York State and in Pennsylvania."
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