(c) 2018 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 8, 2016

"Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act" a Corporate Giveaway

The following is a statement from American Association for Justice (AAJ) CEO Linda Lipsen in response to the U.S. House of Representatives passing H.R. 1927, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act

“If I said Congress was considering a bill to shield Volkswagen from being held accountable for the fraud on its customers, and then combined it with a bill to protect companies that knowingly poisoned people with asbestos, no one would believe me. But that’s exactly what the House just passed. This is a bill that only helps corporations that killed and cheated people, plain and simple.

It’s offensive that with veterans and workers dying from asbestos exposures that Congress would act to delay or deny their compensation at the behest of the companies responsible for their deaths. The Senate should recognize this absurd bill for what it is – nothing more than a corporate giveaway – and reject it.”

Background on H.R. 1927

The three-page bill contains two troubling sections:

The Fairness in Class Action Litigation section would largely end the ability of consumers and workers to band together as a class to take a company that has cheated them to court, which is often the only way to hold a company accountable if it has caused widespread harm to thousands or millions of consumers. The bill would require consumers and workers to prove they have all suffered the same exact type and “scope” of injury before a judge can let a case go forward; this is an impossible standard to meet.

The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency section would forfeit the privacy of individuals suffering from asbestos disease and their families. The bill would put the private information of asbestos victims – including their names and asbestos exposure histories – into a publicly accessible database, making them vulnerable to identity theft and online predators. The bill re-victimizes families impacted by asbestos disease while doing nothing to protect Americans from future asbestos exposures.
Note: President Obama has threatened to veto this legislation.

"The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 1927 because it would impair the enforcement of important Federal laws, constrain access to the courts, and needlessly threaten the privacy of asbestos victims."

"Class action lawsuits allow groups of individuals with similar injuries to vindicate their rights efficiently and effectively. Courts already have ample authority under the existing rules governing class actions to screen out frivolous and baseless lawsuits. H.R. 1927 would expand upon the existing rules by requiring the plaintiffs in a class action to demonstrate that each member of the proposed class suffered the same type and scope of injury. This new requirement would narrow the availability of class actions, potentially dissuading plaintiffs from pursuing meritorious claims, including under important civil rights, privacy and consumer protection laws, and denying them access to justice.

"Moreover, there is already an established process for amending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which is the more appropriate vehicle for ventilating and potentially adopting the proposed revision of Rule 23 standards regarding class actions. In addition, based on the false assertion that there is endemic fraud in the asbestos trust system, H.R. 1927 would impose mandatory reporting and disclosure requirements that would release into the public domain asbestos victims' names, exposure histories, and other sensitive information. This disclosure would threaten their privacy, make them more vulnerable to identity thieves and other predators, and potentially disadvantage them in many ways unrelated to asbestos exposure, including in their efforts to obtain employment, credit, and insurance.

"If the President were presented with H.R. 1927, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.