Mass. Backs Stiff Fines For Corporate Manslaughter

BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts is close to changing a nearly 200-year-old law that limits to $1,000 the penalty for corporate manslaughter.

The House unanimously approved a bill on Monday that would allow for fines of up to $250,000 against companies convicted of criminally negligent behavior that results in death. The Senate also backed the measure in a unanimous vote in September.

Supporters of the bill, including Attorney General Martha Coakley, noted that the current maximum penalty of just $1,000 dates back to 1819.

State Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said the change would give the attorney general more discretion in seeking punishment in cases of "horrible" malfeasance by corporations.

He noted the collapse of ceiling panels inside a Big Dig tunnel in 2006 that killed a Boston woman.

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