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Minn. Legislature Sends Dayton Civil Legal Changes

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Legislature on Wednesday sent Gov. Mark Dayton a set of business-backed bills that change the way civil lawsuits are handled in the state.

The Senate approved four bills in all, including one to reduce the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit from six years to four years after an incident in question occurs. The House passed the bills last week, meaning they land on Dayton’s desk next.

Supporters called the bills a way to make Minnesota’s civil justice system operate faster and more efficiently. “Families, individuals and businesses need an accessible and affordable court system to resolve legal disputes,” said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen.

Critics said the change will make it harder for people to use the court to remedy injustice. “These bills are really a kick in the shin to everyday people in Minnesota,” said Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park.

The bills received overwhelming support from Republicans in the Legislature. Democrats were split, but more voted against the bills than for them.

“I hope and anticipate the governor will veto these bills,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL- St. Louis Park. Dayton’s spokeswoman did not immediately return a call requesting comment on his intentions; the governor has until Monday to sign or veto the bills.

The bills make significant changes to the civil justice system. In addition to the reduction in the statute of limitations, the other three bills are:

— A limit on attorney fees in cases where state law requires such fees be paid as part of the lawsuit, including wrongful termination or sexual harassment.

— An earlier appeal on judicial rulings that grant class-action status for large lawsuits. It’s intended to reduce the number of what critics say are frivolous class-action suits.

— A reduction in the interest rate on monetary judgments that are not paid while a case is still in the court system. Right now that rate is 10 percent; it would be reduced to market rates and could not go lower than 4 percent.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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