HOUSE REPUBLICANS ARE COBbling together business-friendly tort-reform legislation scheduled for a vote the first week in March. Corporate America, which has fought for such a law without results for more than a decade, could have much to celebrate. GOP legislators plan to extend a limit on punitive damages--the greater of three times a victim's economic losses or $250,000--to almost all civil lawsuits as well as product-liability cases. In addition, drug companies and medical-device makers hope that the final legislation will prevent product-liability lawsuits against products approved by the Food & Drug Administration.

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