Wednesday, June 18, 2003

What's the Buzz?

Chamber promotes tort reform


Ohio's business community is on the march again, trying to pass tort reform after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled one of its last major attempts unconstitutional in 1999.

The Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce urged members to lobby their state legislators for the latest bill, which passed the Ohio Senate last week. It now goes to the House.

The bill would cap jury awards for noneconomic damages and limit punitive damages. It also would limit contingency fees for plaintiffs' lawyers.

The bill "is a balanced common-sense measure that preserves the rights of those who have been harmed and at the same time curbs the number of frivolous lawsuits that clog the court system and threaten Ohio jobs," chamber vice president for public affairs Susan Laffoon wrote in an e-mail appeal to members.

But class-action lawyer Stan Chesley said the law is really "an attack on consumers."

"Show me a corporation in the United States whose stock price is lower because of litigation," he said.

The question: If the bill passes, will it survive a legal challenge?

Supporters could be counting on a more friendly public opinion - and possibly a more friendly court, after November's election - to keep the law in place long-term.

Seen it all

Speaking of Susan Laffoon, she retired last week after 25 years at the chamber.

One of the veterans at the Tristate's largest business group, Laffoon covered many roles, including minority business development and the Leadership Cincinnati program.

"The issues in many ways are the same, but there are more of them and they're more complex," she said. "You always need to try to stay ahead of the curve."

It's my favorite

If you've wondered about the artistic tastes of local celebrities from Buddy LaRosa to Kathy Wade to Reds mascot Gapper, now is your chance to find out.

A new ad campaign from the Cincinnati Art Museum features 25 celebrities touting their favorite piece at the museum.

It's all to promote free general admission, which started May 17.

Funded by a $2.15 million gift from the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation, the free admission has produced better-than-average crowds each of the last three weekends. The museum hopes the campaign produces a 25 percent attendance jump in the first full year, marketing director Cindy Fink said.

"Now that we're free, we want people to realize this is the community's art museum," she said.

Museum officials hope to recruit some of the celebrities as lobby greeters - Gapper already has come in from the bullpen for his stint - sometime this summer.


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