By: Lynn A. Toops, Attorney

A bill was recently proposed in the House of Representatives targeted at class action lawsuits. The bill HR 1927 is titled the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act but a quick read of the document demonstrates otherwise.

What is a class action?

Class action lawsuits serve to protect consumers from scams, unfair practices, and events that could cause harm. Sometimes the costs to litigate an individual lawsuit may outweigh the damages done to an individual consumer. But when many people are harmed by the same circumstance, a class action lawsuit can help. Dozens or thousands of people who have suffered similar damages can band together into a single lawsuit to seek justice. Class action lawsuits are more cost-effective for the consumer and create a more efficient process in the courts.

How HR 1927 wants to change class action litigation

HR 1927 aims to change the definition of a class action lawsuit by requiring that each proposed class member suffer the ‘same type and extent’ of injury as the named class. The problem with this wording hinges on the word ‘same’ rather than ‘similar’ which is what the current legislation requires. Changing this one word can have a significant impact on the way that class action lawsuits are brought by consumers.

Under the proposed law, all members of a class must suffer the same harm in order for the lawsuit to proceed. This means that if a consumer was overcharged $2 for mislabeled produce at a grocery store, then all members of the proposed class in a class action lawsuit would have to also be overcharged $2 for mislabeled produce. Therefore anyone who was overcharged $1.79 for mislabeled produce would not be included in the lawsuit because their damages were not the same.

If HR 1927 becomes law, it will create great inefficiencies in the way courts handle class action lawsuits. Instead of allowing people who have suffered similar damages the opportunity to band together in a lawsuit, it will require them to file multiple lawsuits against a defendant for the same conduct. Using the example above, the person who was overcharged $2 would be represented in one lawsuit against the grocer while the other person who was overcharged by $1.79 would be represented in a different lawsuit for the exact same overcharge complaint.

Not only could HR 1927 serve as a deterrent to consumers who seek justice, it also could clog up the court system with duplicative lawsuits.

Protect your legal rights

Protect your legal rights and contact your local representative to tell them you oppose HR 1927. Government should be by the people, for the people. I advocate on behalf of people in consumer protection, product liability, and antitrust lawsuits. If you believe you are a victim of a scam or unfair practice, contact me to discuss a potential class action claim.