Class action reform bill passes House, goes on to the Senate

By Sandi Soendker, Land Line editor-in-chief | Friday, March 10, 2017

As splashier news commands all the attention, there’s an important bill that is moving through Congress. After a hearing on Feb. 15, a class action reform bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a 19-12 vote. Thursday night, March 9, it went to the floor of the full House and passed with a 220-201 vote. 

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, HR985, 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.” 

After the vote, the National Law Journal called it part of the largest tort reform push in more than a decade on Capitol Hill. The reforms have been described as “sweeping” and would rein in aspects of class action efforts in areas of certification, attorney fees and more.

According to the National Law Review, it has found support from defense lawyers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who have been vocal about class actions being “rife with abuse.”

A number of different affected parties have been adamantly opposed, including the American Bar Association, a group of law firms and legal advocatescivil rights organizationsdisability rights organizations, and various legal scholars.

F. Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice, told reporters on Thursday that “it’s pretty clear the bill would wipe away the vast majority of class actions.”

This week, the public interest group tweeted that class actions are a crucial tool for protecting people who are cheated, victims of wage theft and more – and if HR 985 becomes law, “these cases will likely be eliminated and countless Americans will be blocked at the courthouse doors.”

This bill now goes to the Senate.

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