Goodlatte Introduces Major Litigation Reform Bill to Improve Access to Justice for American Consumers
Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement upon the introduction of the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017 (H.R. 985):
“Due to the complexity and costs associated with our legal system, a lawsuit has become a dirty word in America. Our courts were founded on the principle that any American could have access to a just and fair outlet to solve their problems under the law.
“The current state of class action litigation has become an expensive business, and one easily gamed by trial lawyers to their own advantages. Frivolous lawsuits can cost parties millions of dollars. When baseless class action suits come before our courts, it not only impacts companies, but it has an impact on the American consumer who gets less, while lawyers get more.
“I was pleased to author the Class Action Fairness Act, which was signed into law over 10 years ago, and since then, I have been proposing new measures to protect innocent individuals and small businesses who have become the targets of frivolous suits by attorneys who have found loopholes in our civil litigation system. Now, we have an opportunity to close those loopholes, and make our justice system work in a fair and honest manner for everyone.
“The reforms introduced today will keep baseless class action suits away from innocent parties, while still keeping the doors to justice open for parties with real and legitimate claims, and maximizing their recoveries.”
Background: Provisions of the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act seek to maximize recoveries by deserving victims, and weed out unmeritorious claims that would otherwise siphon resources away from innocent parties. Among the legislation’s reforms, the bill requires that classes consist of members with the same type and scope of injury. Under the proposed legislation, uninjured or non-comparably injured parties can still join class actions, but must do so separately from parties that experienced more extensive injury.
The bill also contains additional provisions to:
• Prohibit judges from approving class actions in which the lawyer representing the class is a relative of a party in the class action suit.
• Require that class action lawyers should only get paid after the victims get paid.
• Order any third-party funding agreement be disclosed to the district court.