U.S. House to Vote on Dangerous Class Action Bill

Release Date: 
March 8, 2017
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For Immediate Release                     

U.S. House to Take Up Class Action Bill That Would Rob Americans of Best Tool to Hold Corporations Accountable

Washington, D.C. – In a vote scheduled Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives could potentially wipe out class actions as an efficient method to settle disputes over injuries caused by systemic or widespread wrongdoing.  The House will take up H.R. 985, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017,” a bill that received no committee hearing and no public discussion about its merits, yet promises to upend class action litigation with unnecessary and burdensome restrictions.

“The federal government, led by the Federal Trade Commission and supported by President Trump, has marked this week National Consumer Protection Week, but the U.S. House of Representatives may have missed the memo,” said Christine Hines, legislative director at the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA). “Instead of ensuring that consumers have meaningful access to the court system, the House majority has aligned itself with corporate lobbyists attempting to cut off Americans’ ability to seek remedies when harmed by corporate misconduct.”

A requirement in the bill that each class member suffer the same “type and scope of injury” would drastically reduce recovery for individuals with different injuries even if harmed by the same misconduct.  The legislation also indicates an unwarranted lack of confidence in courts’ administration of class action litigation by imposing onerous procedures and restricting judges’ discretion in how they manage their cases.

NACA strongly urged opposition to the bill in a letter to House members.

“In many cases, where a corporation’s conduct is so rife and pervasive that it harms a group or groups of individuals, individual dispute resolution has not been sufficient to enforce consumer protection laws for all persons affected by the bad behavior,” the letter said. “The class action device, on the other hand, for decades has proven effective in efficiently resolving groups’ claims by rectifying predatory behavior and compensating injured victims.”

 “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 Hines, “H.R. 985 is an over-the-top bill that would exacerbate the problem.”

NACA also has joined with other public interest organizations on several letters to the House opposing the class action attack and other anti-civil justice proposals scheduled for votes this week.