A class action lawsuit is a civil lawsuit in which people with the same or similar injuries caused by a specific product or action sue the defendant as a group. Class action suits can be brought in either federal or state courts and are frequently used for claims of , faulty product design, employment, consumer fraud or personal injury from hazardous products such as drugs, tobacco and asbestos.
Class action lawsuits are often the little guy fighting corporate greed. Think about the Exxon Valdez oil spill or the case against Pacific Gas & Electric depicted in the movie “Erin Brockovich. They are also used in instances of social or racial injustice. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and Roe v. Wade are classic examples of this type of lawsuit. We may see fewer of these lawsuits in the future.
In early March, a new bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives that may make it harder for people to seek justice through class actions. The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017 proposes limiting class actions unless every one of the proposed class members has affirmatively demonstrated that they have “suffered the same type and scope of injury” as the named plaintiffs or class representatives. This legislation would go even further than the so-called Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) passed in 2005 in restricting people’s ability to band together in a class action.
The current legislation is designed to assure fair recoveries for plaintiffs with legitimate claims and “diminish abuses in class action and mass tort litigation that are undermining the integrity of the U.S. legal system.” However, according to the National Law Review legislation relating to class actions is often divisive – and this bill is no exception.
Supporters claim that by providing a better screening process for evaluating claims, the bill will reduce the type of broad class-action lawsuits that hurt companies and create a challenging environment for those with legitimate claims. Opponents and consumer rights advocates point out that the legislation favors corporations and protects wrongdoers by making it tougher for people to join class-action suits.
The American Bar Association has spoken out against the legislation, citing the fact that current laws already require plaintiffs to meet strict standards in order to proceed with a class action case. The ABA states that it would “make it more difficult for large numbers of injured parties to efficiently seek redress in court,” noting that plaintiffs may have suffered various degrees of harm as a result of using the same product or service. In addition, the legislation would place greater burdens on an already overloaded court system by forcing aggrieved parties to file suit in smaller groups or individually.
Complaints have been made over the years about lawsuit abuses through class-action litigation and addressed by the courts. In proposing this new bill, legislators have circumvented the traditional rulemaking process. Critics argue that any changes should be proposed and considered utilizing the proper judicial channels. The U.S. Senate is currently reviewing the bill, which is likely to be the subject of debate and revision.
Class action lawsuits can be an efficient means of resolving disputes. If you have questions about a specific suit or how the proposed legislation may impact future claims, please contact me at 973-509-8500 x213 or email LFarber@LFarberLaw.com.
The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.