ST. PAUL (AP) -- A long-sought change to the way civil lawsuit awards are handled is on the verge of becoming law after lopsided votes in the House and Senate on Tuesday.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign the bill, which has been a top priority of business groups for years.
The GOP-controlled House forced their counterparts in the DFL-dominated Senate to vote on giving more protection in civil lawsuits to those with deep pockets, but relatively small amounts of fault.
Representatives passed the so-called joint and several liability proposal 80-51 in the afternoon. Because the provision was attached to a Senate bill, the House forced the Senate to take a vote on the issue. Later Tuesday, the Senate rejected an alternative proposal before accepting the House version on a 43-22 vote.
Under the measure, no party would have to pay more than their share of jury awards if they are less than 50 percent liable. Those more at fault can be forced to pay up to 100 percent. Current law allows people or entities more than 15 percent at fault to be held responsible for many times that amount of the damages if the other parties can't pay.
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