Commentary

Laws need balance, not bias

Montana Chamber of Commerce: State needs more balance for manufacturers, business

November 14, 2023 12:19 pm

(Photo illustration by Getty Images)

Greg Munro’s impassioned op-ed published Oct. 22 criticizes Montana lawmakers for updating the state’s product liability law, which now provides better balance, improves our legal climate and is more in line with the trust Montanans put in businesses to do the right thing. 

As the state’s leading business advocate, the Montana Chamber is the voice of the businesses facing the challenge of excessive litigation, which costs Montanans an annual “tort tax” of $824 per person and results in 8,553 jobs lost annually. 

Like the children’s game, Monopoly, Munro’s argument that businesses will have a “Get Out of Jail Free Card,” is best played with kids. Most of what SB 216 does is to allow defendants to ensure juries hear all the relevant evidence. Only those interested in an imbalanced justice system would argue the opposite. 

Other updates, like establishing a 10-year statute of repose, bring Montana more in line with best practices in other states. Another change adopts a comparative fault system in product liability cases. More than half of U.S. states use this balanced approach, allowing defendants to argue that plaintiffs or other parties were partially or primarily at fault for injuries. Most of us would agree businesses should be able to offer evidence that others were acting recklessly or irresponsibly. 

Further, the updated law includes exceptions for cases involving knowing concealment, government-mandated safety recalls, and more, ensuring consumers are protected and have recourse in genuinely faulty product scenarios. 

Montanans are better off with more balance in our law. 

Todd O’Hair, is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Montana Chamber of Commerce. 

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