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HR 985 - The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act

Updated March 9, 2017
It’s early in the Trump Administration, but it hasn’t taken anyone by great surprise that the former billionaire businessman has been taking a direction favoring business that will likely come at the expense of the consumer, especially in the area of safety and regulation.

The most glaring example of this is with HR 985, a bill designed to severely limit how class action lawsuits may be pursued that recently sailed through the Judicial Committee and awaits debate in the House of Representatives. Among other provisions, the bill would prohibit plaintiffs joining a class action lawsuit, or multi district lawsuit (MDL) from having suffered different damages, limiting who could join the same suit. It would also revamp how attorneys are paid, making it difficult for many to work in the field of class action in the first place.

In his address to Congress in late February, President Donald Trump said the Food and Drug Administration takes far too long to test and authorize new drugs for the American market, but a study by the medical journal BMJ Open reached the conclusion for every life saved by rushing a drug to market, another life would likely be put in danger by not properly vetting the safety of another.

Many who follow the FDA closely would say there is already too much rushing when it comes to getting drugs and other medical devices to the market. In recent years, a host of lawsuits have been brought against manufacturers of shoulder and hip replacement parts like Zimmer or Stryker Orthopaedics almost always charging the device was improperly designed.

The FDA has a program called 510(K) Clearance that allows a manufacturer or a device that has already been approved through traditional means to skip rigorous testing if a new product is brought to the market and presented simply as a “design update”.

The list of drugs and medical devices approved by the FDA that have later been found to cause issues for patients is lengthy, ranging from hernia mesh to talcum powder to antidepressants and consumers should not expect the Trump Administration to side with them when it comes to safety.

Fortunately, the law is still on the side of Americans and there are still thousands of lawyers making sure that the big pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers can’t cut corners in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Unfortunately, they don’t get involved until the damage is already done and the FDA has already dropped the ball on protection.

If you or a loved one (even if they are deceased) believe they have been the victim of drug or medical device negligence and think you have nowhere to turn, you’re wrong. The attorneys at are ready to listen and help sort out what’s happened to you and discuss what the next steps to take could be. If you’re ready to find out who is responsible for your injuries, call us to see if we can help.

Please contact us at 1(855) 464-0808 or for a free legal evaluation of your claims today!

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Updated February 28, 2017:
We’ll start with the good news. According to PredictGov, a fairly reliable tracker and predictor of federal legislation, the likelihood of HR 985, The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, only has a 4% chance of ever be passed into law in its current form. The bad news is that sites like this also gave Donald Trump less than 1% chance to win the Republican Party nomination and eventually become President. The moral? Hoping the experts are right isn’t enough.

So, why should you care if HR 985, which was approved by the Judicial Committee without a public hearing? If you listen to the bill’s main sponsor Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R - Virginia) or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it’s major backer, it’s a win for the American people who won’t be sucked into paying outrageous lawyer fees and for the American business, who will now have better protection against frivolous lawsuits.

When lawmakers whose top concern is big business say something is good for the average American, be very concerned...and don’t believe a word.

The bill adds layers of restrictions on the already strictly interpreted Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 governing claims that are too large to be handled by traditional means. It’s biggest folly is in suggesting that each member of a claim suffer the exact same injuries. This means if a major drug manufacturer had a claim against it, each person would have need to have suffered the same ill effects.

Or imagine if a skyscraper had 40 elevators in it, each holding 20 people and the elevators all failed and plummeted five stories. If those 800 people did not have the exact same injuries, under the changes proposed by Rep. Goodlatte in HR 985, they would not qualify for a class action lawsuit, instead having to file their claims individually, which in many cases may prove to be too costly for the injured.

What if you were part of that elevator lawsuit and your brother needed a good class action attorney in 10 years to deal with a completely different issue? That couldn’t happen either as new regulations would not allow the same lawyer to representative not only the same client twice but any member of that client’s family. Further, even if you brother could find a different attorney, the changes to the law would prohibit that lawyer from collecting fees until all members of the lawsuit have been paid off. Class action cases, settlement or not, can take years to be paid in full. This would make it a fiscal impossibility for many class action attorneys to continue to take cases in this area of law.

The next step for the bill will be to be presented on the floor of the US House of Representatives. While it’s true Goodlatte did sponsor a bill that died in the Senate last year, the new Congress may give this one more life. Four percent may not seem like much, but this bill could destroy the right of United States citizens to pursue lawsuits. To find out exactly who your representative is and let your voice be heard, visit .

In times of great political upheaval like we’re living in now, change comes so swiftly only the sensational and most jarring headlines get attention. There’s hardly time to dissect these stories, much less ones that aren’t as flashy, before the next talking head starts screaming about what happened in Washington that day.

But it’s the less flashy stories that often have the biggest impact and the passage of HR 985 - The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act - in Judiciary Committee may rank among the most important stories to slip under the radar in the first few months of the new Congress. Passing the committee 19-12 on February 15, the bill would completely restructure and reinvent how class action lawsuits are created, tried in court and how awards are decided and doled out.

The bottom is line is that it will kill class action and multidistrict (MDLs) lawsuits, adding layers of regulations designed to make sure they are dead before they can begin.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), will try to make the public think this is in the best interest of Americans, but one need not look any further than what groups are supporting and opposing the bill to see whose interest lies in passage. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest lobbying group, is firmly in favor of passage of this bill while organization like the AFL-CIO, National Disability Rights Network, Southern Poverty Law Center and National Employment Lawyers Association are among the 70 groups who have signed a letter condemning the bill. It may be the only input they get as no public hearings have been scheduled on the matter.

While it is just one of many proposed changes, the passage of the bill generating the most attention from the law community is the section stating that class action lawsuits would only be certified if every member of the class “suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative.”

To put it another way, if the Post Office started charging you 20 cents for stamps, and the neighbor on your left 30 cents and the neighbor on your right 40 cents, you could not all join a class action lawsuit under the proposition because your injuries are different. The lawsuit would likely be dismissed.

Sections of the letter read: “If this bill were enacted into law, it would obliterate class actions in America… The fact that the Committee would even consider such a sweeping, reckless legislation without holding a single hearing is an outrage ... Classes inherently include a range of affected individuals, and virtually never does every member of the class suffer the same “scope” of injury from the same wrongdoing. Certainly, many civil rights, discrimination and employment class actions, including cases involving refusals by companies to properly pay workers, would not satisfy these criteria.”

Other changes would include being unable to hire the same class action lawyer twice, making civil class action lawsuits almost impossible to happen (Goodbye Brown vs. Board of Education) and a restructure of attorneys fees clearly designed to dissuade attorneys from taking on class action or MDLs.

While the public is familiar with the term “class action lawsuit” the lesser-known “multi-district lawsuit” or MDL is often the mechanism by which cases against manufacturers of defective automobiles, dangerous drugs and hazardous medical devices are litigated since the cost of bringing individual cases against a big company usually outweigh more than a lone plaintiff would gain. Destroying the MDL system would likely dissuade injured people to pursue action against negligent corporations.

Last year, Rep. Goodlatte proposed almost the same bill, but it died in the Senate. In 2017 though, the political climate of Washington is very, very different.

Thus far, the bill is opposed by over 100 civil rights groups, over 100 law firms through the country, including, nearly 100 consumer justice organizations, dozens of groups for people with disabilities and list is literally growing daily. To let your voice be heard, contact your government representatives to vote against H.R. 985, also known as the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation of 2017.” Visit here to find out all of the methods to contact your local representative and let them know Americans must be protected.

Please contact us at 1(855) 464-0808 or for a free legal evaluation of your claims today!

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