Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Rob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act (H.R. 985). Goodlatte describes the bill as a means to “keep baseless class action suits away from innocent parties, while still keeping the doors to justice open for parties with real and legitimate claims.”
It’s far from being the first of its kind, but this bill is getting traction. After a hearing on Feb. 15, the bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a 19-12 vote, and is expected to go to the full House for a vote on Thursday, March 9.
The bill has drawn substantial criticism from a number of key groups. According to the National Law Review, the opposition includes the American Bar Association, a group of law firms and legal advocates, civil rights organizations, disability rights organizations, and various legal scholars. It has found support from, among others, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The bill is designed to effectively revamp and tighten up the restrictions on class action lawsuits for personal injury or “economic harm.”
Various legal opinions claim it would be impossible to use the court system successfully under this legislation. Critics of the bill point out that the court system is the only option for fighting fraud, consumer abuse or widespread exploitation that inflicts economic harm. Passage of this class action reform bill could also affect the ability to take action against government misdeeds.