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Lawsuit Abuse Reform on the Rise in Trucking Litigation

As 2021 came to a close, the American Transportation Research Institute (“ATRI”) released its 17th annual Top Industry Issues Report, in which more than 2,500 industry members were surveyed on the biggest issues facing the trucking industry in 2022. Lawsuit abuse reform was ranked by the respondents as the fourth biggest issue, rising three spots from the prior year’s survey. As lawsuit abuse reform is now a top five issue in the trucking industry, some public officials are facing it head on.

Specifically, Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds along with a state senator who was formerly a trucker, have launched legislation seeking to curb lawsuit abuse in the trucking industry. The first Iowa bill supported by the Governor, limits all “non-economic” civil litigation awards involving commercial motor vehicle accidents to $1,000,000. This bill is similar to the controversial MICRA legislation in California, which effectively limits non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at a legislative cap. Proponents of MICRA and other damage cap legislation contend that the legislation is necessary to preserve and prevent important industries from failing due to excessively high jury verdicts. Some proponents argue that this cap will solve the number one issue facing the trucking industry, namely, the trucker retention and shortage issue.

The second bill, introduced by Adrian Dickey, a former truck driver and now state senator, would bar the practice of third-party funding for litigation against the trucking industry. Proponents of this bill, including Senator Dickey, argue that litigation against one of America’s most important industries should not be an investment opportunity for third-party financiers. However, this bill has been met with criticism that third-party litigation funding is necessary for plaintiffs who otherwise would not be able to litigate against well-funded adversaries.

While the success of each of these bills is not yet clear, what is clear is that some public officials have sounded the bell for putting a curb to abusive lawsuits in the trucking industry. While no such bills have been introduced in California, the pressure to reform trucking litigation is on the rise.

The attorneys at Poole Shaffery & Koegle will continue to monitor these significant changes in trucking litigation and remain able and ready to assist clients with all of their needs in trucking litigation.