Congress is in the middle of debating a bill that would reduce consumer
rights while tightening the controls on class-action lawsuits. H.R. 985,
the ‘Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017’, favors
big business and corporations and makes it increasingly difficult for
consumers and victims of corporate fraud and abuse to seek remedies. The
bill is being proposed by Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginian Republican.
If this bill is passed, it would effectively limit what kinds of litigation
could be considered class action – making it burdensome for plaintiffs
and their lawyers while giving big corporations a “get out of jail
free” card for committing fraud on its customers. Nearly every single
major civil rights organization in America has vehemently opposed H.R. 985.
Under H.R. 985, class action lawsuits would not be able to be pursued if
the plaintiffs have not all suffered the same exact injuries. An advantage
would be given to corporate defendants who could retain specialized counsel
in courts while restrictions are placed on the types of relationships
lawyers can have with the plaintiffs. The bill forbids any plaintiff who
was previously a client of the class lawyer to be a representative in
a class case. Class certification decisions would be automatically appealable,
and attorney fees would be grossly limited in class action and MDL lawsuits.
Perhaps the most worrisome requirement of the bill is the requirement that
plaintiffs need to demonstrate a mechanism for identifying each class
member. This is something that is virtually impossible in many consumer
class action lawsuits.
Who would be hurt by H.R. 985? According to
the Huffington Post, Goodlatte’s bill
would “roll back protections for defrauded investors, cheated consumers,
people whose privacy has been violated, small businesses harmed by price
fixing, workers cheated by wage theft, and pretty much anyone harmed in
any way by corporations that break the law.”
Corporate greed and fraud is rampant in America and class action lawsuits
help offer consumers a legal tool to hold corporations accountable for
their misconduct. Just this year alone Wells Fargo got into legal trouble
after revelations that they cheated 2 million consumers by creating false
and unauthorized credit card and checking accounts in their names. Volkswagen
was caught rigging their pollution control devices to defraud the public
and rake in profits. Defective Chinese dry wall has been damaging homes
for years. Medical devices, such as the morcellator and pelvic mesh implants
have led to severe injury and death in consumers. If this proposal became
law, none of these cases would be able to proceed.
How do class action lawsuits help consumers? Class action lawsuits are
already strictly regulated and judges often err on the side of caution
before allowing litigation to proceed. Rules already exist that require
plaintiffs to prove the veracity of their claims before joining the litigation
and settlements in all class action lawsuits must be court approved before
being finalized and that includes the amount of attorney fees. However,
it is a valuable tool for consumers of all backgrounds and financial statuses.
When a corporation or company has wronged them, class action lawsuits
allow them to fight back, and share legal resources with other consumers
that have been wronged. It allows consumers to fight Big Pharma, predatory
investors, and fraudulent auto manufacturers.
If you have been a victim of corporate fraud, a defective product, or a
dangerous drug, you may be eligible to participate in a national class
action lawsuit. To learn more about your legal options or to schedule
a free consultation call the
Philadelphia consumer protection lawyers at Golomb & Honik today at
1-800-355-3300 or 1-215-985-9177 or fill out our confidential
The national consumer protection lawyers at Golomb & Honik have successfully
represented individuals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and
throughout the United States.