Monday, February 14, 2005

Class Inaction

According to an article from the Contra costa times, the Senate has approved a limit on class action lawsuits. Essentially, the multistate class action lawsuits must now be heard in Federal Court, as opposed to state courts. It says: "Under the legislation, long sought by big business, large multistate class action lawsuits could no longer be heard in small state courts. Such courts have handed out multimillion-dollar verdicts.
Instead, the cases would be heard by federal judges, who have not proven as open to those type of lawsuits."
The article further states: "Bush and other bill supporters - who have pushed for the legislation for almost six years - say it is needed because greedy lawyers have taken advantage of the state system by filing frivolous lawsuits in state courts where they know they can get big verdicts.
Senators who back the bill say lawyers make more money from such cases than do the actual victims, and that lawyers sometimes threaten companies with class action lawsuits just to get quick financial settlements. Regular people, they assure, will not lose their day in court."
Unfortunately, this seems to me to be more a case of the supporters trying to spin big business agenda in a manner that will please the general populace. The basic idea behind a class action is that one person represents several for the sake of ease of litigation. This person takes the case, and the result of that case stands for everyone involved in the class. The desired effect of the class action suit is not to fill one's pockets, but rather to elicit change on the part of big businesses who are profiting by their own actions.
The article continues: "Opponents say Bush and other bill supporters are trying to help businesses escape proper judgments for their wrongdoing - and also to hurt the trial lawyers who litigate the cases, some of whom are big Democratic contributors.
'Are there bad lawyers that bring meritless cases? Sure there are, and we should crack down on them,' said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a former trial lawyer. 'But this bill is not about punishing bad lawyers. It is about hurting consumers and helping corporations avoid liability for misconduct.'"
Nevertheless, Big Business won a big victory this time, if only because of where they'll be heard.

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