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LAW WATCH : Blasting at a Gnat

Does Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush have time on his hands? Or higher political office in mind? Either way, we think his efforts to launch a ballot initiative that would affect only a tiny fraction of lawsuits are not the best use of his time and the public’s dollars. It’s like using an elephant gun to kill a gnat.

The initiative that Quackenbush is pushing for next November’s ballot would bar drunken drivers and uninsured motorists from recovering pain-and-suffering awards from other drivers who caused them to have accidents.

Another provision of the measure, which Quackenbush filed with the attorney general this month as a first step toward qualifying for the ballot, would bar damage suits of any kind by felons who claimed they suffered injuries during the commission of a crime or in fleeing from a crime.

We aren’t arguing against the common-sense appeal of these restrictions. In fact, one might wonder why they aren’t already law. In one form or another, they were part of a package of tort reform bills considered by the Legislature earlier this year. That they didn’t pass was more a result of the legis- lation’s broad-based and ill-advised restrictions on the right to sue or to recover in injury claims.

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The Legislature may take up some of these broader proposals again next year. If limits on the litigation rights of drunken drivers and fleeing felons are to become law, they should do so through the legislative process. Using the initiative process is expensive, excessive and unnecessary.


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