Class action litigation is an important way for consumers to receive compensation when they would not otherwise be able to pursue litigation due to the costs and likely small payoff for them as an individual The idea with class action litigation is that similarly situated parties have the opportunity to receive compensation through the court system which they would likely not otherwise have the resources to pursue against powerful corporations.
Two federal bills currently in the House of Representatives could have a negative impact on the ability of consumers to receive compensation in class action litigation. The bills are the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act and the Further Asbestos Claims Transparency Act, and they are premised on the idea that the current way classes are formed by the courts puts those who are seriously harmed on the same footing as those whose harm is less serious.
The remedy, under the bill, is to require courts to carefully look at the evidence and to put consumers into smaller groups, taking into account the degree of harm they have suffered as a result of tort actions. The aim is to ensure that “each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury” prior to certification of the class. The lawmakers supporting the bill say that this will prevent overbroad classification.
The bill would presumably impact all forms of class action litigation, including asbestos litigation, which is somewhat of a special form of products liability action. The reason we say this is that plaintiffs in asbestos litigation do not necessarily deal strictly with the tort system in pursuing compensation. In our next post, we’ll take a look at this issue and why it is important to work with an experienced attorney when pursuing asbestos litigation.
Bloomberg BNA, “Asbestos, Class Action Bill Faces Steep Senate Hurdle,” Jan. 8, 2016.
Consumer Affairs, “Volkswagen bail-out bill moving through Congress,” James R. Hood, Jan. 6, 2016.