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Class action lawsuits could become much harder to bring—and to win—under a bill introduced into the House of Representatives. Representative Robert Goodlatte, R-VA and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, presented HR 985, “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017” in February 2017.
The main points of the bill exhibit a distinctive anti-class-action bias that would make it easier for businesses to escape consequences when their product has brought about real injury and suffering for those who bought and used it in good faith. Rep. Goodlatte has characterized his bill as making it easier “to maximize recoveries by deserving victims and weed out unmeritorious claims that would otherwise siphon resources away from innocent parties,” but we beg to differ.
While no one wants frivolous lawsuits clogging up our court system, a lot of us also don’t want injured families to suffer because redressing wrongs in court becomes so much more difficult. There are at least five ways in which this bill restricts the rights of consumers to participate in a class action suit. Thus, it is not truly about expanding fairness for all.
In a class action lawsuit, a group of people with the same, or similar, injuries caused by the same product or action can band together to sue as a group. Class action suits can also be called “multi-district litigation” (MDL) or “mass tort litigation.” Such suits can involve products like Takata airbags, prescription drugs such as Abilify, medical devices such as the Sorin 3T, and other items. Other types of class action suits can involve securities (investment) fraud, consumer fraud, or any case in which many persons are injured by a specific item or in a specific situation, such as an airplane crash.
The bill is complex, with many points that delve into the technical details of litigation. However, it was not difficult to discover several ways in which the bill’s provisions would be harmful to the average class action plaintiff who has suffered at the hands of a U.S. corporation. Here are our five objections:
The class action lawsuit process is far from perfect, but it is currently the best way we have for persons who have suffered harm to receive some form of justice. While the process does have room for improvement, unfortunately, this bill does not provide it. As Elizabeth Chamblee Burch and Myriam Gilles detail in their article (found here), Rep. Goodlatte’s bill instead appears to have the elimination of group litigation as its goal. As such, it would be a step backward for the average injured U.S. citizen who has limited resources to pursue justice when compared with the assets available to U.S. corporations.
If you or someone you care about was seriously injured by a defective product such as a prescription drug, an automobile part, or a consumer item, you should speak with a South Carolina personal injury attorney at the Louthian Law Firm as soon as possible. We have been securing justice for hardworking people and families of South Carolina since 1959. A personal injury award won in court or through a negotiated settlement can help a person harmed by a defective product move forward toward health and wholeness.
At the Louthian Law Firm, we will listen to your individual circumstances and analyze the merits of your case absolutely free of charge. We work on a contingency basis, and you will pay no fees until we recover compensation for your injuries. Call us at 1-803-454-1200 or use our convenient online inquiry form to get started.