Summary: S.565 — 104th Congress (1995-1996)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to Senate with amendment(s) (04/18/1995)


Title I: Product Liability

Title II: Biomaterials Access Assurance

Product Liability Fairness Act of 1995 - Title I: Product Liability - Applies this title to any product liability action begun after enactment of this Act, except for actions for loss or damage to a product itself, actions for commercial loss, and actions for negligent entrustment. Makes any circuit court of appeals decision interpreting this title a precedent for any Federal or State court within that court's geographic jurisdiction.

(Sec. 103) Allows a claimant or defendant in a product liability action to offer to proceed with voluntary, nonbinding alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Requires defendant offerees to pay reasonable attorney's fees and costs if they unreasonably or in bad faith refuse to proceed to ADRand final judgment is entered against the defendant.

(Sec. 104) Imposes seller liability if the seller failed to exercise reasonable care, made an express warranty, or engaged in intentional wrongdoing. Declares that a failure to inspect is not a failure of reasonable care if there was no reasonable opportunity to inspect. Makes a seller liable as a manufacturer if the manufacturer is not subject to service or if the claimant would be unable to enforce a judgment. Makes certain persons engaged in the business of renting or leasing a product liable as sellers, but prohibits liability for the tortious act of another solely by reason of ownership.

(Sec. 105) Makes it a complete defense if the claimant was under the influence of alcohol or a drug and was more than 50 percent responsible.

(Sec. 106) Reduces damages by the percentage of harm attributable to misuse or alteration, except for actions involving an employer or coemployee if the employer or coemployee is, under State law, immune from claimant's action.

(Sec. 107) Allows punitive damages, as permitted by State law, if the claimant shows by clear and convincing evidence that the harm resulted from the defendant's conscious, flagrant safety indifference. Limits the amounts that may be awarded to a claimant. Requires, at the request of either party, consideration of punitive damages in a separate proceeding.

(Sec. 108) Limits the time within which a product liability action must be started, with a separate limit for durable goods.

(Sec. 109) Permits several and prohibits joint liability for noneconomic loss.

(Sec. 110) Grants an insurer a right of subrogation whether or not the insurer is a party. Prohibits settlements or payments, and makes releases invalid, without the consent of the insurer.

Requires, if the manufacturer or seller alleges the harm was the fault of the claimant's employer or coemployee, that the issue be submitted to the trier of fact. Reduces damages if it is found by clear and convincing evidence that the harm was so caused, but requires the manufacturer or seller to reimburse the insurer for attorney's fees and costs if it is not so found.

(Sec. 111) Declares that U.S. district courts shall not have jurisdiction under this Act based on provisions of the U.S. Code relating to Federal questions, commerce and antitrust, and amounts in controversy.

Title II: Biomaterials Access Assurance - Biomaterials Access Assurance Act of 1995 - Applies this title, subject to exception, to any civil action in Federal or State court against a manufacturer, seller, or biomaterials supplier, on any legal theory, for harm allegedly caused by an implant.

(Sec. 205) Declares that a biomaterials supplier shall not be liable for harm caused by an implant unless the supplier: (1) is a manufacturer or seller; and(2) furnishes materials or parts that fail to meet contractual requirements or specifications.

Allows considering a supplier a manufacturer if the supplier: (1) registered under specified provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and included the implant on a list of devices filed under those provisions; or (2) is the subject of a declaration by the Secretary of Health and Human Services that the supplier was required to so register or include but failed to do so.

Allows considering a supplier a seller if the supplier held title to the implant after manufacture and after entrance of the implant in the stream of commerce and subsequently resold the implant.

Allows a supplier, to the extent required and permitted by other law, to be liable if the claimant shows, by a preponderance of the evidence, violation of contractual requirements or specifications.

(Sec. 206) Sets forth procedures relating to motions by a supplier to dismiss actions that are subject to this title.

(Sec. 207) Applies this Act to all civil actions covered under this title begun on or after the date of enactment of this title.