Punitive damagesImagine this: In the state of Alabama, a...

the Forum

March 14, 1995

Punitive damages

Imagine this: In the state of Alabama, a person found out a car manufacturer failed to inform him that they touched up some scratches on his car prior to its purchase.

He sued and was awarded $4,000 for the reduction in value of the car. Hurrah! And $4 million in punitive damages. Boo!

Imagine this: A Little League organization was sued by a woman who was hit by a ball that her own daughter failed to catch. The threat of an excessive punitive damage award forced the Little League into a $10,000 out-of-court settlement. Boo!

We are all victims of the current system that makes punitive damages unlimited. The risk of such limitless possibility hinders Americans from pursuing new business opportunity or taking leadership roles in community or recreational programs.

The cost of these excessive awards is borne by all people in the form of liability premiums.

While punitive damages can be appropriate based on the intentional behavior, we need to put sense back in the equation by instituting corrective legislation limiting the awards.

Recent legislation was introduced by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill. Its purpose is to limit punitive damage awards to $250,000, or three times one's economic damages, whichever is greater.

Limited punitive damage awards will remain completely separate from the medical expenses, lost wages, physical damage expenses or pain and suffering that are owed. This is a great step in the right direction.

I join a host of others in my profession who want to increase our quality of life by supporting cost-saving programs such as this.

I encourage you to support this bill as well. You can call or write your congressman.

hilip C. Riehl

Burtonsville

Youth baseball

Major League Baseball is not, contrary to a Feb. 17 Associated Press report, charging $6 more per uniform for youth leagues this year. . . .

In recent years, Major League Baseball has targeted manufacturers that sell unlicensed merchandise to consumers (including youth leagues).

By selling this merchandise, which is generally very low in quality, the manufacturers are breaking federal trademark laws.

Our aim in stopping the unlicensed manufacturers from producing and selling products with our clubs' names is to bring these manufacturers into compliance with the law and not to earn money from youth baseball leagues.

To ensure that youth leagues can purchase legal merchandise at a reasonable cost, we have worked with several licensees to produce uniforms that are designed specifically for youth leagues and which sell at prices which youth organizations can afford. This has been in place since 1992.

Major League Baseball is not trying to earn money from youth baseball, as suggested.

In fact, we have guaranteed that the amount of money we donate to youth baseball will exceed the amount we receive from the sale of licensed goods to youth organizations. Last year, MLB and its clubs donated $5.5 million to youth baseball in North America . . .

Don Gibson

New York

The writer is vice president and general counsel of Major League Baseball.

Inept government

Interesting anomaly: The state spends $50 million to "totally upgrade" the so-called "Vehicle Emissions Testing Program," then the governor pushes for a 65 mile-per-hour speed limit. Consequences?

(1) Tens of millions more gallons of gas burned each year (vehicles are most efficient between 45 and 55).

(2) Many more deaths. People already drive 65, so now they'll go 75.

(3) The anomaly: ground level ozone, NO-2 and other noxious poisonous emissions will increase by around 20 percent (more than the testing program could possibly have eliminated).

This planet is on the down side of fossil fuel resources. To add to the depletion of oil, the aggravation of the atmosphere (each gallon of gas burned poisons 20 cubic feet of air), and to negate a $50 million program shows, unfortunately, that perhaps our government is inept at judging situations . . .

J. R. Durham III

Church Hill

Do it now!

The new Republican majority and a number of Democrats say that we should adopt a balanced budget amendment so that all of the country can live under the economic well-being produced by such a document.

However, in their scheme, it can't happen until 2002. Seven years away.

Since the proposal failed, the lamentations and recriminations are extensive and heard throughout the land.

However, that same group has no restrictions on passing a balanced budget right now for 1995. Or, if one year is too fast, fTC the authority of this Congress extends to 1996 -- how about then?

If the experience of a balanced budget is something substantial and not simply a political slogan that is attractive to some constituents, why not work it out immediately?

It doesn't require a constitutional amendment to balance the budget -- just a simple majority vote. Clearly they have that.

They don't need to be angry, or threaten to make it a 1996 issue -- they can show us its benefits and thereby persuade us all.

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