If signed into law, U.S. House Bill H.R. 1927 will affect injured plaintiffs nationwide. Congress passed “The Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2016” under a long, plaintiff-friendly sounding title. While it is fair to corporate defendants, the act establishes an unfair litigation qualifier that could easily strip a plaintiff’s right to file a class action lawsuit.
When a nationally distributed product malfunctions, injured parties may reside around the state or across the country. A defendant’s corporate headquarters may be thousands of miles away. These cases often involve different jurisdictions and laws. Plaintiff’s and defendant’s circumstances can vary widely. Class action suits filed in federal court can easily overcome jurisdiction issues. They also give attorneys access to a federal judge’s countrywide authority over defendants.
Who qualifies to be part of a class action lawsuit?
Some class action cases must be filed in federal court because of complicated issues or multiple jurisdictions. Some attorneys choose federal courts as a preferred forum over local courts. One plaintiff is usually named as a representative of a class, but any court decisions are issued on behalf of all class plaintiffs. This enables attorneys to present plaintiff’s personal injury cases as a group instead of one-by-one.
Current federal court rules have four primary qualifications for a class to be certified:
- Numerosity – While there is no set number, the judge must agree that there are too many plaintiffs for cases to be tried individually.
- Commonality – The plaintiffs must be injured or damaged by the same incident, occurrence, condition, or defective product.
- Typicality – The plaintiff who represents the class must present circumstances typical to all of the class.
- Adequacy – The attorneys handling the suit must show adequate ability to move the case forward.
When multiple plaintiffs unite under a single court case, they have the power of numbers behind them. A group of Las Vegas personal injury lawyers can pool their manpower and legal and financial resources with attorneys across the country. Class actions make the litigation process more efficient and less costly by handling multiple cases at the same time. They make the process fair by eliminating the chance of different plaintiff outcomes from state-to-state. Class action suits also help reduce local court backlogs.
HB H.R. 1927 can affect plaintiffs in Nevada
Under current federal court rules, if an injured Nevada plaintiff is one of many nationwide plaintiffs who meet class action requirements, his personal injury lawyer Las Vegas could seek to add him to the certified class. That case would be decided on its merits. H.R. 1927 changes the commonality requirement to a standard that requires members of a proposed class to suffer “…the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives.” This new guideline will be difficult to meet, and many class action lawsuits might not make it through the certification process.
Had these new rules been in effect over recent years, cases such as the growing class action against manufacturers of Androgel, Testim, Axiron, and other topical erectile dysfunction drugs might have been dismissed. After using these heavily marketed and prescribed drugs, many users alleged heart disease, strokes, and related problems. Women with whom plaintiffs had close contact alleged acne problems and excess hair growth. From hugging Daddy, children experienced early puberty and increased sex drive.
As the potential plaintiffs in the class suffered a range of different issues, no representative plaintiff would be likely to demonstrate the same “type and scope” of injuries as the rest of the class. Under new guidelines, cases such as this might never be certified as a class. Attorneys with inadequate financial ability and manpower couldn’t afford to pursue these major corporations on their own.
HB H.R. 1927 – Asbestos Claim Transparency
For over three decades, plaintiffs who sustained asbestos-related injuries have been filing suits against the manufacturers of asbestos products. Many of the defendant companies filed bankruptcy, so some of the cases were put on hold for years. A 30 billion dollar settlement trust is now available to asbestos-injured plaintiffs and deceased plaintiff’s heirs. Unfortunately, H.R. 1927 will require the personal and financial details of each asbestos settlement be made a part of a public record.
A trustee would be required to send a quarterly report with each settlement recipient’s name, demand amount, exposure history and the basis for any payment. Some people might not care, but persons who don’t want their personal and financial information in an easily accessible bankruptcy record could walk away from the money to which they are entitled.
H.R. 1927 Bill is still pending
Unless the president vetoes U.S. House Bill H.R. 1927, these few changes will make it easier for corporations to avoid lawsuits. Companies that cause injuries and damage might never be held accountable for their actions.