It’s a bill that supporters, including 1st district Congressman Buddy Carter say will put sense and fairness back into the issue of class action lawsuits. But not everyone is liking the idea behind H .R. 985, also referred to as the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017.
“This has nothing to do with helping consumers and everything to do with helping corporations,” says Stephen Lowry, a product liability attorney in Savannah. He rattled off some names including “Takata, GM, Toyota” and then told me “all those big recalls could be affected by this legislation.”
Congressman Carter told us in a statement that “If you look at many class actions brought on behalf of consumers, there are little to no benefits for class members while lawyers collect a large share of the settlement. H.R. 985 works to fix this by making the system work for consumers with legitimate claims.”
Lowry says attorneys often spend months if not years working on these class action suits and says the reason is that “no individual can afford to go up aganst big corporate lawyers. But if a group of people band together, you can hold a corporation accountable for a bad product that injures people or for fraud.”
Carter says the bills works to maximize recoveries for deserving victims while eliminating claims with no merit. What’s wrong with that you might ask? Lowry and several consumer groups say plenty. They say the bills sets up new kinds of criteria for determining what is a legitimate claim. They believe the legislation could stifle people with true issues of product liability and allow some corporations to be even more irresponsible. Lowry points to Takata again and a republican Administration. “What we’re facing under our new Administration now is the significant curtailing of the rights of the individual and rights of the consumer,” he said. “It’s funny because this is entitled ‘National Consumer Protection Week’ when this bill as well as many others do the exact opposite.”
We also heard from the National Association of Consumer Advocates which opposes the bill as well. “House supporters of H.R. 985 have failed to explain why this bill is necessary,” the group wrote in a letter to members of Congress. Apparently not all got the letter or at least the message from this consumer group. Congressman Carter told us in his statement he supports the legislation.