Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/13/1995 01:35 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  HOUSE BILL NO. 19                                                            
                                                                               
       "An Act relating to  the definition of 'fault' as  that                 
       term  is  used  for  the  purposes of  determining  the                 
       liabilities  of  parties  in   civil  actions,  setting                 
       limitations  on civil  liability,  and authorizing  the                 
       award, in  conformance with applicable  court rule,  of                 
       attorney fees in civil actions."                                        
                                                                               
  Representative Therriault, sponsor  of HB  19, gave a  brief                 
  overview of the legislation.  He noted that the  legislation                 
  is  intended  to  clarify civil  liability  law  that allows                 
  defendants to  argue that they  are not liable  for offenses                 
  they have  committed intentionally.   The  need arises  from                 
  Alaska  court  cases in  which  defendants have  argued that                 
  because the law refers  only to acts that are  "negligent or                 
  reckless"   and   not   specifically   to  acts   that   are                 
  "intentional," it does  not allow  for the apportionment  of                 
  fault  of those who  have committed  offenses intentionally.                 
  In cases in  which more than  one person contributes to  the                 
  injuries, the law is unclear as to whether or not the person                 
  who  committed   an  offense   intentionally  can   be  held                 
  responsible for any of the fault.   To date, cases utilizing                 
  this argument  have been  found to  be without  merit.   The                 
  legislation  would  eliminate  the  need  for  costly  court                 
  proceedings.                                                                 
                                                                               
  Representative Therriault observed  that the House Judiciary                 
  Committee  adopted  a  Letter of  Intent  with  HB  19.   He                 
  asserted   that  the   legislation   reflects  the   court's                 
  determination in an attempt to clarify the law.                              
                                                                               
  Representative Therriault pointed out that in some cases the                 
  plaintiffs are  using the  same argument in  order to  bring                 
  their case against the person or entity that can best afford                 
  the  recovery.    He used  the  example  of  a current  case                 
  involving a mail bomb.  The plaintiffs are claiming that the                 
  State is negligent in preventing  the defendant from sending                 
  the bomb.  If the intentional tortfeasor is excluded all the                 
  blame can be placed on the "deep pocket" of the State.                       
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                7                                              
                                                                               
                                                                               
  SUSAN  COX, ASSISTANT  ATTORNEY GENERAL,  DEPARTMENT  OF LAW                 
  testified that the legislation will  clarify current law and                 
  close a  loop hole.  She added that  the Letter of Intent by                 
  the House Resources Committee accomplishes its intent.                       
                                                                               
  Representative  Therriault stated  that the  House Judiciary                 
  Committee  wanted  to  clarify that  all  parties  would not                 
  necessarily be on the "same playing  field."  The courts are                 
  not precluded from finding that the intentional party should                 
  bear one hundred percent of the fault.                                       
                                                                               
  Representative  Therriault  MOVED  to report  HB  19  out of                 
  Committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  with  the                 
  accompanying  fiscal   notes   and   the   House   Judiciary                 
  Committee's Letter of Intent.   There being NO OBJECTION, it                 
  was so ordered.                                                              
                                                                               
  HB  19  was  reported out  of  Committee  with  a "do  pass"                 
  recommendation  and  with  two  zero  fiscal  notes  by  the                 
  Department  of  Law,  date  2/8/95  and  the  Department  of                 
  Administration, dated 2/8/95;  and with the House  Judiciary                 
  Letter of Intent.                                                            

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