Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Large class action law suits should not be limited to federal courts

Why you're right:

1. Federal Courts are already overcrowded. If state courts can no longer be a venue for class action law suits all plaintiffs will be forced to file in federal courts. There are already 34,067 cases that have been languishing in federal courts for over three years. (Federal Court Management Statistics)

2. Attorney's fees are lower in state court. The primary rational for limiting plaintiff's ability to file class action law suits is that they produce excessive fees for lawyers. A comprehensive study of class action suits from 1993-2002 found that attorney's fees are higher in federal court than in state court. (Journal of Empirical Legal Studies)

3. It would endanger consumers. Corporate defendants get procedural advantages in federal court. For example, corporations are much more likely to successfully challenge the certification of a class – a necessary step before class action litigation can move forward – in federal court than state court. As a result corporations will have less incentive to ensure that consumers aren't injured when using their products. (Public Citizen)

Why they're wrong:

Proponents of the class action legislation before Congress say that it is necessary to prevent "frivolous lawsuits." But there are already mechanisms, in state and federal courts, for judges to quickly dismiss non-meritorious cases. The law, by definition, targets cases where plaintiffs are injured and are entitled to recovery. It is not designed to streamline the judicial system but part of a broader agenda to insulate corporations from liability when they are responsible for injuries.