Class Action Lawsuits under Attack
Corporations could hurt consumers with little possibility of being sued if H.R. 1927 becomes federal law. That’s why one of the nation’s top legal experts in class action law opposes it.
When she testified before Congress in April, Alexandra D. Lahav warned lawmakers that passing H.R. 1927 would virtually wipe out a law that protects thousands of Americans:
“H.R. 1927 would effectively eliminate class actions in civil rights cases, including voting rights, employment discrimination and many others. This law is also likely to curtail class actions in important areas such as antitrust, securities fraud, civil RICO and vast swaths of state consumer protection, antitrust and other laws that protect individuals and businesses small and large.”
Lahav is a national expert on class action law and a major defender of the role of litigation in American democracy. She’s a Harvard law school graduate and taught law at Stanford before joining the faculty at the University of Connecticut Law School, one of the leading public law schools in the United States. She has also taught law at Yale, Columbia and Fordham.
Lahav champions class action law because it helps injured Americans who don’t have the money, or the knowledge, to file an individual law suit against large corporations and businesses. Under current class action law they can join law suits, representing hundreds, if not thousands of victims, to secure benefits they deserve under the law in America.
H.R. 1927 is named “the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act.” It proposes adding this restrictive paragraph to current class action law:
“No federal court shall certify any proposed class unless the party seeking to maintain a class action affirmatively demonstrates through admissible evidentiary proof that each proposed class member suffered an injury of the same type and extent as the injured of the named class representative or representatives.”
The “legalese” aside, the intent of H.R. 1927 is clear: Unless each person in a class action law suit has a virtually identical injury, and the evidence to prove it, he or she is excluded. That brings up a host of questions. The Takata airbag recall is a good example.
If H.R. 1927 becomes law, must auto owners with Takata airbags wait until their air bags explode to join a class action law suit?” Will their injuries have to be “identical”? If their Takata airbag replacement is defective must they wait until it explodes to join a class action law suit? Can they get compensation without filing an individual law suit because they bought what they thought was an airbag but it was really a potential bomb? Can they be compensated if their car’s trade-in value has dropped drastically since it is on the Takata recall list?
Congress should heed Professor Lahav’s warning: If it is adopted, H.R. 1927 will stand class action law on its head, slamming the courthouse door in the faces of thousands of Americans.