When a widely used product causes damages to a lot of people, the victims may all file together against the manufacturer in something called a “mass tort” or a “class action lawsuit.” These types of lawsuits make it easier for each person to get the compensation they need.
How do they work? By taking part in a class action or mass tort lawsuit, each individual plaintiff will not have go to through the long, drawn-out process of going to trial (although this often results in less money awarded per person).
If you are considering filing a claim in a mass tort or class action lawsuit, you may want to check in with your lawmakers first. The federal government is working on a bill that will make dramatic reforms to mass tort and class action lawsuits.
What Is The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act?
In March, the House passed HR 985. The bill essentially flips class action and mass torts lawsuits on their heads. Some of the most notable changes included in HR 985 are:
- Requiring that each class member has suffered the same type and scope of injury
- Allowing automatic appeal of the class certification order
- Discovery would be stayed while motions to transfer, dismiss, strike class allegations, or dispose class allegations are pending
- Attorneys cannot be paid until after recovery is paid to plaintiffs
- Attorneys cannot be paid until they submit accounting to the Director of the Federal Judicial Center
- Class action attorneys are barred from representing relatives or other conflicts of interest
The author of HR 985, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), said that the bill was designed to bring fairness to class action litigation, as the name of the bill suggests. Goodlatte has mentioned that this bill keeps fairer outcomes to both plaintiffs and defendants in mind.
Many aren’t so sure about that.
Opposition to the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act
Let’s look at the first big change in HR 985. If the bill is passed, each claimant in a class action lawsuit will have had to suffer the same type of injury. That may sound reasonable at first, but think about a recent defective product case that made headlines: hoverboards.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of lawsuits were filed against the manufacturer of these gadgets due to hoverboards exploding. While all of the hoverboards were defective for the same reason (poorly made lithium ion batteries), different injuries resulted: fires, property damage, burns, and so on.
It’s hard to find a large group of people who have been wronged in the same exact way by a product or a company. Every case is unique, but there are many cases that are similar. HR 985 eliminates the possibility of filing a class action lawsuit against one defendant because the cases are similar.
Not only is this likely to make cases longer and more expensive, it may significantly hurt people who are filing a civil rights class action suit. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote a letter to the House of Representatives detailing how HR 985 would curtail many civil rights cases in the future, as well as ones that are happening right now.
Civil rights violations certainly don’t cause the same amount of damage or injury to all victims. So why bar people from getting the compensation they need?
Pay Attention to the Journey of This Bill
If you have an opinion on HR 985, please speak to your representatives. If you are the victim of a mass tort or class action lawsuit, this bill will have a big impact on your case.
To learn more about mass torts, talk to a Florida personal injury lawyer.
About the Author:
A partner at Lawlor, White & Murphey and a distinguished personal injury lawyer, Ben Murphey tries complex disputes that include civil appeals, maritime and admiralty claims, wrongful death, and labor disputes. Mr. Murphey has been recognized for his excellence in the area of personal injury litigation by being rewarded with a 10/10 Avvo Rating and named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the last four consecutive years (2011-2014). Mr. Murphey regularly tries cases in state and federal courts around the country, being admitted to practice before all Florida courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.