While Consumers Were Sleeping…


| Jim Coogan

This is serious business.  The New York Times has published a review this morning of just how dangerous the Class Action Fairness Act of 2017 is.

We all know that “trial lawyers” are not always regarded very highly by the average American.  Most folks, if they’ve never had to turn to attorneys or Courts to enforce some right (or some wrong), have the general impression that lawyers are out there making life difficult for commerce, cops, and even average folks.

Who hasn’t heard of some meaningless ‘class action’ settlement where a few thousand consumers get a coupon for $20 of printer paper while the lawyers get $5 million dollars in fees?  Ridiculous, right?  Offensive.  It sounds like a system that is not working.

Last year, the New York Times did a wonderful job of explaining how that system really works.  The stories and the explanation of the law depicted a system that allows consumers a way to seek help when they cannot get a problem solved using Customer Service with their cell phone provider, their bank, their cable provider, and other consumer service and product companies.  We all have agreements that we enter into every day–it is part of the way we make our lives more convenient with information, communications, and commerce systems that we pay for and depend on.  The stories showed that consumers are being blocked from the Courthouse by two types of contract provisions: (1) those that prohibit joining together in a “Class;” and (2) those that prohibit going to Court and mandate “Arbitration.”

A “Class” simply means that you can join together with one other or even hundreds (or thousands) of other people who have suffered a similar loss from the same Defendant.  This is an efficient way for many consumers to make claims and have them decided when it would not be financially-efficient to hire a lawyer yourself.

An “Arbitration” is a hearing that takes place outside of Court.  Instead of a County Judge or Federal Judge or other official Judge making rulings about your case, a private lawyer (or possibly not even a lawyer) would listen to the arguments and facts and decide the case.  The problem is that this is not public.  There’s no public record.  The hearing takes place behind closed doors.  And the Arbitrators might hear dozens or even hundreds of cases involving the same Defendant.  Typically, that Defendant (your cable provider or your bank) is the one who pays that Arbitrator.  Use your imagination–what problems do you foresee if the same Arbitrator is always employed by the same Defendant?  Does it feel like it will be a fair hearing?

This new proposed law would make Class Actions even more difficult than they already are.  It would mean that it would be virtually-impossible for lawyers to organize a viable and financially-efficient Class.  That means that consumer protections become meaningless when you cannot afford to enforce them.  This Bill is designed to take away your rights.

WE STRONGLY URGE YOU TO CALL YOUR CONGRESSPERSON AND OPPOSE THE FAIRNESS IN CLASS ACTION ACT H.R. 985.  IT’S NOT FAIR AT ALL

This is serious business.  The New York Times has published a review this morning of just how dangerous the Class Action Fairness Act of 2017 is.

We all know that “trial lawyers” are not always regarded very highly by the average American.  Most folks, if they’ve never had to turn to attorneys or Courts to enforce some right (or some wrong), have the general impression that lawyers are out there making life difficult for commerce, cops, and even average folks.

Who hasn’t heard of some meaningless ‘class action’ settlement where a few thousand consumers get a coupon for $20 of printer paper while the lawyers get $5 million dollars in fees?  Ridiculous, right?  Offensive.  It sounds like a system that is not working.

Last year, the New York Times did a wonderful job of explaining how that system really works.  The stories and the explanation of the law depicted a system that allows consumers a way to seek help when they cannot get a problem solved using Customer Service with their cell phone provider, their bank, their cable provider, and other consumer service and product companies.  We all have agreements that we enter into every day–it is part of the way we make our lives more convenient with information, communications, and commerce systems that we pay for and depend on.  The stories showed that consumers are being blocked from the Courthouse by two types of contract provisions: (1) those that prohibit joining together in a “Class;” and (2) those that prohibit going to Court and mandate “Arbitration.”

A “Class” simply means that you can join together with one other or even hundreds (or thousands) of other people who have suffered a similar loss from the same Defendant.  This is an efficient way for many consumers to make claims and have them decided when it would not be financially-efficient to hire a lawyer yourself.

An “Arbitration” is a hearing that takes place outside of Court.  Instead of a County Judge or Federal Judge or other official Judge making rulings about your case, a private lawyer (or possibly not even a lawyer) would listen to the arguments and facts and decide the case.  The problem is that this is not public.  There’s no public record.  The hearing takes place behind closed doors.  And the Arbitrators might hear dozens or even hundreds of cases involving the same Defendant.  Typically, that Defendant (your cable provider or your bank) is the one who pays that Arbitrator.  Use your imagination–what problems do you foresee if the same Arbitrator is always employed by the same Defendant?  Does it feel like it will be a fair hearing?

This new proposed law would make Class Actions even more difficult than they already are.  It would mean that it would be virtually-impossible for lawyers to organize a viable and financially-efficient Class.  That means that consumer protections become meaningless when you cannot afford to enforce them.  This Bill is designed to take away your rights.

WE STRONGLY URGE YOU TO CALL YOUR CONGRESSPERSON AND OPPOSE THE FAIRNESS IN CLASS ACTION ACT H.R. 985.  IT’S NOT FAIR AT ALL.

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