What Does the New Bill Propose?
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.
So, What Does this Mean Exactly?
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.
Lawsuits that Would Have Been Killed by This Bill include Erin Brockovich, Madoff Cases
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.
Anderson, et al. v. Pacific Gas and Electric
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.
Hill et al. v. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
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.
Mitchell v. Wells Fargo Bank
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.
What We Can Do
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.
Thanks again for the support.
Only time will tell what happens with this bill, but you can be sure ClassAction.org will have all the updates.