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House passes bill opposed by trial lawyers

PHOENIX -- A bill that would revamp how attorney's fees are awarded in civil cases related to contracts has been approved by the Arizona House of Representatives.

A 34-23 vote Thursday sent the bill to the Senate for approval.

Under Arizona law, a court may award attorney fees to the losing party if the other side rejected a settlement offer that is equal or more favorable to the judgment verdict.

The proposed law would amend the statute so that the winner would be determined by comparing the verdict with the settlement offer combined with the amount of attorney fees up to the date of the offer.

Supporters say the measure would encourage early-settlement offers to avoid extended litigation.

The Arizona Trial Lawyers Association opposes the measure. Business groups back it.

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