The US Legal System

Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017: The Corporate Sweetheart Deal

 

Recently, the House Judiciary Committee passed a new bill (HR 985) called the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017.” Introduced a day before Valentine’s Day the bill should have been called “The Corporate Sweetheart Deal.” This is 1 of 6 Federal bills being presented this month that rig the courts and strip away rights. It is important that every American take note of what this Sweetheart Deal will mean to them.

What Does This Bill Mean?

The bill effectively ends your ability to hold a corporation accountable if you are injured. For example, let’s say you take a pharmaceutical product and it causes you to develop cancer. You have significant medical expenses, no longer work, and are struggling to pay your bills. The pharmaceutical company has known for years that their drug causes cancer, but refused to issue a warning or recall the product. When they make this choice, the pharmaceutical company puts profit over public safety.

Unfortunately in our job as attorneys, this is a situation we see frequently. This new bill will take away your ability to get compensation for your injuries, which is a fundamental American right. Specifically, a right issued to you under the 7th Amendment of the Constitution (i.e. the right to a jury). If someone harms you for the sake of profit, they should have to pay for the damages you endured because of your injury.

Under this bill it is doubtful you would be able to find a lawyer to represent you unless you could afford to pay them hourly. Lawyers know that people who have been badly hurt often cannot afford to pay hefty hourly legal bills. Thus, lawyers often enter into a contingency contract with clients. The lawyer promises to work hard on the client’s behalf, and if the lawyer wins the case, the client pays them a portion of what was collected. This bill makes it nearly impossible for lawyers to make that agreement with their clients. This is a move by the federal government to directly interfere with and restrict negotiated contracts.

Taking away Americans’ access to the Courts will shield corporations from lawyers, which are often the only line of defense for injured individuals. In these types of cases lawyers get to read the corporate emails and communications, look at internal data, and figure out the true story behind the choice to put profit over safety. Often lawsuits are the last option for the public to get information and answers. When we first talk to clients the questions we often get are 1) Did this product cause my injury? and 2) How did it happen? In every lawsuit we file our mission is to answer those questions. This bill is nothing but a blatant attempt to remove the public’s oversight of corporations and it will cause unsafe products to remain on the market unchecked.

Corporations fear lawyers having access to their information. Corporations fear lawyers exposing their lies. Corporations fear injured individuals taking part of their profit.

Sadly, we too often see some truly reprehensible behavior and this behavior will only get worse if corporations no longer fear facing those they have injured in Court.

Who Proposed this Bill?

The Congressman who introduced the bill, Bob Goodlatte, has his campaigns financed almost entirely by corporations – corporations who will benefit from the bill. Bob Goodlatte is the same Congressman who proposed to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which is the independent entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members of the House of Representatives and their staff. Instead of independent oversight, Bob Goodlatte proposed that investigations into Congressional ethics violations would be overseen by Congress itself. In other words, Congressman Bob Goodlatte wants Congress to be the “judge, jury and executioner” – i.e. Congress would be in charge of policing Congress. Americans have seen how this has worked in the past.

Now Bob Goodlatte is proposing a bill (HR 985) that enables corporations to be in charge of policing themselves without oversight from pesky lawyers or private citizens. Corporations are tasked with making as much money as possible for their stock holders. These financial motives often take priority over ethical and safety concerns.

The more corporations donate to insider politicians like Congressman Bob Goodlatte, the more likely they are to get favorable assistance from Congress. This sweetheart corporate immunity deal is a prime example of how the deep pockets of corporations can be used to fund bills that benefit corporations but are pushed through without consideration of public safety.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte represents the people, not the corporations that funded his election. Congressman Bob needs to be reminded that allowing corporations immunity from being held accountable for putting unsafe products on the market will only encourage more unsafe products to hit the market – putting our families at risk. Congressman Bob needs to know that it is not okay to prioritize the interests of the corporations who finance the campaigns over the citizens who elect.

What Can Be Done?

“We The People” deserve “liberty and justice for all,” and that requires holding political insiders like Congressman Bob Goodlatte accountable for placing the safety of Americans to benefit those that funded his campaign. Americans deserve better than HR 985. Our lawmakers are charged with providing for the common defense, not making their constituents defenseless against large corporations. Remind your Representatives that they work for you and demand they protect your rights. – It is not too late to stop this Corporate Immunity Bill. Contact your Representatives Today!
If you do not know who your Congressional members are, you can find out at http://www.whoismyrepresentative.com/. Let them know you are against HR 985. Without your voice, justice may be silenced.

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Chad Finley

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Chad Finley

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