A new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), current chair of the House Judiciary Committee, seeks to make it more difficult for plaintiffs and plaintiff attorneys to file and pursue class action claims in U.S. courts.
The legislation -- dubbed the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017” -- includes these provisions:
Uniform damages -- any plaintiff joining a class action would be required to suffer damages “of the same type and scope of injury” as the other plaintiffs in the class action. Plaintiff attorneys would also be prohibited from suing on behalf of relatives and employees, or any other client with whom they have an ongoing attorney-client relationship.
Ascertainability -- would require plaintiff attorneys to demonstrate that there is a “reliable and administratively feasible mechanism” to identify who their clients are and distribute any damages awarded directly to those clients.
Fees -- plaintiff attorneys would only be paid a percentage of what their clients actually recover and would have to wait to be paid until all the money is paid out to clients.
Reporting -- before they are paid, plaintiff attorneys would have to submit to the Federal Judicial Center data on the amount actually paid by the defendant, the number of class members paid, the average and median payment per class member, and any money paid to non-class members.
Conflicts -- plaintiff attorneys would be prohibited from recruiting friends and family members as class representatives.
MDL procedures -- would require plaintiffs to prove injury before their cases are included in multidistrict litigation (MDL).
Critics of the legislation argue that it would “gut” class actions, discourage civic rights class actions by changing the rules for fees in injunction-only cases, and interfere with a court’s ability to manage complex litigation.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or injustice, the experienced personal injury legal team at Roberts & Roberts is here to help with compassionate, aggressive representation. Please call 800-248-6000 or contact us for a free consultation.