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Executive Summary

PRODUCT LIABILITY BILL's SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE PROPONENTS are hoping to move the measure to a vote on the Senate floor in the fall. At a July 31 hearing on the Product Liability Reform Act (S 1400), committee member Sen. Hatch (R-Utah) said he hopes "the committee will move this legislation forward...[to] the floor of the Senate this session." The Judiciary Committee reportedly has until August 17 to decide whether action will be taken on the bill. However, committee staff indicate that a schedule for further hearings or markup has not been set. Many key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee did not attend the hearing, including Sens. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and committee Chairman Biden (D-Del.). No action has been taken on a companion bill (HR 2700) introduced in the House by Rep. Luken (D-Ohio). The Senate measure, introduced by Sen. Kasten (R-Wis.), was referred to the Judiciary Committee by the Commerce Committee, which passed the bill on May 22 ("The Pink Sheet" May 28, T&G-13). During the hearing, federal product liability legislation was opposed by consumer groups, the American Trial Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association. ABA representative Marshall Shapo, Northwestern University, attested that "from a legal point of view, broad federal legislation like S 1400 is unjustified and that it would harm the public interest." Despite characterizations of the ABA as willing to accept limited aspects of product liability law reform, the association says it has consistently maintained its original opposition to federal legislation.

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