Cynical Class Action Bill Would Cut Off Consumers’ Access to Justice

Release Date: 
February 16, 2017
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For Immediate Release                                                                            

February 16, 2017

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House Judiciary Committee last night approved H.R. 985, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017,” a bill that would impose unnecessary and burdensome restrictions on class actions. The bill would obstruct consumers’ and workers’ ability to band together to seek remedies when harmed by illegal corporate conduct. The bill now moves to the full House.

A requirement in the bill that each class member suffer the same type and scope of injury caused by the conduct would drastically reduce recovery for individuals with different injuries even though they are harmed by the same misconduct.  The legislation also indicates an unwarranted lack of confidence in courts’ administration of class action litigation.

In a letter submitted to the Committee, the National Association of Consumer Advocates strongly urged opposition to the bill.

“The legislation’s extreme proposals would disrupt class action proceedings with onerous and unnecessary requirements, cutting off access to justice for millions of Americans injured by corporations that break the law,” the letter said.  “Meanwhile, corporations would be free to disregard state and federal protections for consumers and workers without fear of being held accountable.”

The letter also contains brief summaries of three recent class action cases from New York, Florida, and California that compensated millions of consumers and stopped unlawful corporate behavior.

“Corporations already engage in egregious tactics, particularly the use of forced arbitration clauses in their fine-print contracts, to bar consumers from banding together in court,” said Christine Hines, legislative director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “H.R. 985 is an over-the-top bill that will exacerbate the problem.”

NACA also joined with other public interest organizations on a second letter to the Committee, which notes how H.R. 985 circumvents “the process that Congress itself established for promulgation of federal court rules under the Rules Enabling Act, bypassing both the Judicial Conference of the United States and the U.S. Supreme Court.”