WASHINGTON -- As President Bush signed legislation yesterday aimed at discouraging multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuits, he made clear he had his sights set on much broader restraints.
Next up, Bush said, should be curbs on asbestos litigation and medical malpractice awards.
Surrounded by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the president hailed the legislation, which had been bitterly opposed by consumer groups and trial lawyers.
Bush said having federal judges take most large class-action lawsuits away from state courts would ''prevent trial lawyers from shopping around for friendly local venues." Under the bill, class-action suits seeking $5 million or more would be heard in state court only if the primary defendant and more than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state.
And limiting lawyers' fees in settlements where plaintiffs win product discounts instead of money, the president said, would keep lawyers from reaping ''huge payouts while the plaintiffs ended up with coupons worth only a few dollars." The law links lawyer fees to the coupons' redemption rate or actual hours spent on the case.