2004 Adopted Resolutions
72nd Annual Meeting
Boston

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ADDRESSING THE NEED FOR TORT REFORM

WHEREAS, in recent years the annual cost of tort settlements and judgments that cities have had to pay out has skyrocketed, even reaching into tens of millions of dollars for some cities; and

WHEREAS, in some cases, the high costs of tort settlements and judgments for cities are due in part to judgments that far exceed the harm caused; and

WHEREAS, in other cases, cities are made responsible for the costs of large federal judgments against individual local government employees based on their willful misconduct even though the local government has a system in place to discipline employees for their misconduct; and

WHEREAS, resources that cities must devote to frivolous tort litigation and tort settlements and judgments could otherwise be available for other important public purposes, and ultimately, the costs of such tort settlements and judgments are generally borne by local taxpayers; and

WHEREAS, in some cases, cities are being forced to pay tort settlements and judgments under federal laws that Congress has the power to change without infringing on state tort law or state prerogatives; and

WHEREAS, the issue of tort liability in the private sector has also been the subject of much debate in recent years,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors hereby urges Congress to enact tort reform legislation directing the judicial system to emphasize appropriate compensation for victims in actions against municipalities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the U.S. Conference of Mayors urges Congress to enact legislation to ensure that federal judgments against individual local government employees based on their willful misconduct are collectable only from those employees, and not from their governmental employers, at least when the local government has a reasonable system in place to discipline employees for their misconduct; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the U.S. Conference of Mayors hereby urges Congress to enact legislation limiting awards of attorney’s fees in actions against municipalities under federal law to amounts that are appropriately proportionate, so that spurious claims do not permit plaintiffs’ attorneys to obtain unjust awards; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the U.S. Conference of Mayors encourages Congress and the Administration to work towards removing the partisanship and subjectivity from the broader debate over tort liability, and to strive for objective tort reform that ensures continued access to the courts for victims while also protecting against excessive awards that can harm the economic base of our communities.