The first in what is expected to be a series of tort reform bills introduced by the Republican majority was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said Senate Bill 134 was an attempt to prevent onerous bond requirements from effectively preventing a business from appealing a huge jury verdict.
Traditionally, the company appealing a judgment has been required to post the full value of the original jury award in order to make that appeal. But Roberson said the size of jury awards in cases have grown exponentially in the past decade or more, leaving companies to try to post bonds for awards of $50 million or more.
He said an appropriate bond is important to make sure ensure the business has enough money to pay creditors if the judgment is upheld.
But he said even in Nevada, four Nevada juries have awarded more than $50 million cases and some two dozen cases in the past 10 years have been for “seven figures or more.”
“The cost of obtaining a multi-million dollar bond becomes unattainable for many defendants even if they have a strong case that warrants appellate review,” he said. “If they can’t obtain it, that business is effectively denied the right to appeal.”
SB134, he said, would cap the maximum bond in major cases to $50 million and, for federally defined small businesses, at just $1 million.
He said the bill doesn’t change any of the other rules and if the appealing business lost it still would be responsible for the full judgment set by the court.
He said his legislation deals only with the bonding requirement.
Matthew Sharp of the Nevada Justice Association said he believes the size of the bond should be left to the judge and the participants in each individual case, not put in statute. He pointed out the original judgment in any case was what the jury felt was fair.
Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said the bill doesn’t say what the judge should consider in lowering a bond below the bill’s limits. He also said he thinks a judge should have the power to go higher than SB134 says in specific cases.
Roberson said he would be glad to discuss possible amendments with Ford.
The committee took no action on SB134 Thursday.
Republican lawmakers are expected to introduce more than a half dozen tort reform measures over the next couple of weeks.