Senate Bill Limits Class Action Lawsuits
WASHINGTON, DC -- February 4, 2005 -- The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, S.5, would deprive the average citizen of the right to confront large companies in a common lawsuit and should not be passed, according to a letter addressed to U.S. Senators, prepared by Frank Clemente of Public Citizen.
The letter states that the bill is designed to allow defendant companies to move class actions filed in state courts, where they have traditionally been tried, to federal courts. As federal courts are much friendlier to business interests than state courts, cases are far less likely to even get certified - thereby blocking a trial over the merits of the case. The federal judiciary is so overburdened that throwing class actions on top of its workload virtually guarantees that any justice from a class action suit will be delayed by years.
Class action lawsuits are an effective legal method for average citizens to confront corporations. An individual legal battle against a large corporation can be so expensive and difficult it is nearly impossible. One of the most effective methods of enforcing corporate accountability and improving business practices are class action law suits. In recent years, class actions have been used to stop insurance companies from illegally raising customer premiums, to stop auto giants like Ford from knowingly installing faulty engine parts that caused multiple injuries and deaths, and to stop employers like Wal-Mart from making employees work overtime without pay.
Frank Clement of Public Citizen has made a call to action against the "Class Action Fairness Act", S.5. He states "There is nothing fair about this proposed law. It is simply a way for corporations to restrict the legal rights of ordinary citizens to fight unscrupulous companies that sell unsafe products, rip off consumers, pollute the environment and employ unfair labor practices." They have prepared a sample letter for citizens to send to their senators that can be found on their web site. Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.
Senate will vote the week of February 7, 2005 on the "Class Action Fairness Act", S. 5. Please contact your Senators today - tell them that you demand fairness in our legal system, and that the only way to do that is to either stop or amend the class action bill. The bill should be soundly defeated for the sham "reform" that it is.
While it could be difficult to stop in the Senate with its Republican majority, we have a good chance to amend the bill and fix its most dangerous aspects. Specifically, we urge you to demand that your Senator vote for two amendments to the bill:
- Sen. Bingaman's consumer amendment, which will give federal judges the tools to certify state law class actions on a nationwide basis so that consumers across the country can hold companies accountable for wrongdoing.
- Sen. Kennedy's civil rights and worker protection amendment, which carves out state law civil rights and wage-and-hour cases from the scope of the bill, is needed to ensure that ordinary working men and women will continue to have access to their own state courts for cases brought under their own state law.
At Brayton Purcell, we also believe that ordinary citizens would be harmed by the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 S.5 bill. We urge you to call or write your Senators to ask them to vote "No" on S.5. bill. For the full text of Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 S.5 bill, see the Thomas Legislative site.