A newly proposed bill (H.R. 985) would make it nearly impossible for consumers and employees to bring class action lawsuits, should it become law. Let's cut to the chase: we all know the justice system isn't perfect. A reasonable person could think (and even some of us here at ClassAction.org agree) certain parts of this bill address some serious issues in the world of class action litigation. However, the bottom line is – this bill contains language that would kill nearly all class action lawsuits, both current and future. Which, make no mistake, is exactly what it's designed to do.
If you want to protect your rights as a consumer, the right to stand up as one group against Wall Street, big pharma, and other major corporations with their expensive legal teams, read this page and take action before it's too late. The House is set to vote on H.R. 985 this week, the Senate soon after.
Groups from across the political spectrum have come forward as vocally against this bill. Below, you will find a sampling of the letters and writings in opposition to H.R. 985.
Letter sent by Republican House Liberty Caucus that claims H.R. 985 "creates an uneven playing field" between consumers and corporations.
Letter signed by 120 civil rights organizations and advocates on "poorly drafted" H.R. 985, which "[will] create needless chaos" and "upend decades of settled class action law." Signees include The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Working Women and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Letter signed by nearly three dozen disability rights organizations including The American Council of the Blind, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, the National Association of the Deaf and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
The bill – ironically titled the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017” – introduces several sweeping changes to the class action world as we know it. However, the first change it proposes is the broadest, and the most threatening:
Under the new bill, class actions could only be approved in instances where consumers have the same “type and scope” of injury.
Say a national bank is sued for assessing illegal overdraft fees. One customer gets charged $35 in illegal fees, while another is hit with $70 in fees. Should the bill pass, these two individuals would not be able to participate in a class action lawsuit together because the amounts of money they lost are different. The case would only be OK’d if each class member lost the same amount of money.
The cost of an individual case against a major bank would be far more than $35 or $70, leaving the above individuals without recourse and the bank with no reason to discontinue the practice. As the law stands now, people only have to suffer similar “injuries” to bring a class action.
What’s “fair” about a law that would have made it impossible to fight some of the most outrageous corporate injustices of the last 30 years?
The following is a list of some cases we here at ClassAction.org believe would have never even made it to the courtroom.
The case, which was made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich,” was filed on behalf of residents of Hinkley, California after the world’s biggest utility company dumped hundreds of millions of cancer-causing chemicals into the town’s water. Since the types of medical problems the victims suffered varied, ranging from cancer to miscarriages and spinal deterioration, and since some individuals contracted more serious illnesses than others, this case would have been precluded by the new bill.
This is just one of the many class actions filed over Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and it ended in a $218 million settlement. Since Madoff’s victims all lost different amounts of money, the “scope” of damages would be different, and this bill would have prevented this suit from reaching the courts.
This was just one of the lawsuits filed against Wells Fargo after the bank came under fire for opening unauthorized accounts on behalf of its customers – and it would have never even made it to the courthouse had this new bill been approved. This suit, in particular, states that class members were subject to “financial harm…loss of time, bank charges, late fees and/or other miscellaneous costs and damages.”
Because each class member’s loss would have been different – that is, one member may have had three accounts opened and $100 in late fees, while another may have had only one account and lesser costs – this lawsuit never would have been filed.
And this is just a handful of examples. The bill also threatens lawsuits against companies that systematically discriminate based on gender and race (passed over for a promotion vs. fired? different “type”) and release defective products into the marketplace.
Your right to hold a company accountable for egregious discrimination, widespread fraud, and knowingly selling dangerous and defective products is under attack. If you want to protect your rights as a consumer, all you need to do is make a quick call or send a short note to your Congressperson.
Only time will tell what happens with this bill, but you can be sure ClassAction.org will have all the updates.