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Clinton Vetoes Product Liability Measure

[Pres. Clinton]

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 2) -- As promised, President Bill Clinton vetoed a bill today limiting damages in product liability lawsuits, saying it would prevent injured people from receiving fair compensation (192K WAV sound).

Republicans immediately denounced Clinton as a pawn of trial lawyers, who have contributed heavily to his re-election campaign.

The bill would have allowed injured parties to be compensated for actual damages, but capped awards for pain and suffering at $250,000 or two times actual damages.

Vetoing the bill at the Oval Office, Clinton said one of his duties as president was to "protect the health the safety of our people." Clinton said the bill would mean more unsafe products and would "let wrongdoers off the hook."

"I take this step because I believe this bill tilts against American families and would deprive them of the ability to recover fully when they are injured by defective products (128K WAV sound)."

Realizing the political perils of the veto, Clinton said he would sign a reform measure that does not protect companies who make defective products."This bill would hurt families without truly reforming the legal system," he said. It was Clinton's 15th veto.

In what is promising to be a campaign issue, Republicans, led by presidential rival Robert Dole, accused Clinton of catering to trial lawyers who often receives as much as a third of victims' damage awards.

Dole (R-Kan.) has cited a study by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based watchdog group, showing lawyers and law firms contributed $2.5 million to Clinton's re-election campaign during the first nine months of 1995 (256K WAV sound) .

The consumer group Citizen Action said corporations and organizations favoring the bill gave $5.9 million to members of Congress in 1995.

Dole said Tuesday that Clinton must choose between "hard-working American consumers for jackpot verdicts" and "smooth-talking, get-rich-quick trial lawyers who have turned the pursuit of justice into a big-dollar game of search and destroy."

Without the bill, manufacturers say juries will continue to award exorbitant sums to victims, boosting the cost of even the most common household items.

The House voted for the bill along bipartisan lines, passing it by a 259-158 vote on March 29, a week after the Senate's 59-40 vote. However, both margins fell short of the two-thirds required to override a veto.

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