Bush Promises To Sign Class-Action Lawsuit Reform Legislation After House Passes Bill
President Bush on Friday plans to sign a class-action lawsuit reform bill (S 5) after the House on Thursday voted 279-149 to approve the legislation, the Washington Post reports (Harris, Washington Post, 2/18).
The bill, which the Senate passed earlier this month, seeks to prevent "forum shopping," a practice under which attorneys file lawsuits in jurisdictions that often favor plaintiffs. The legislation also would shift class-action lawsuits from state to federal courts in cases in which more than $5 million is in dispute or in which plaintiffs and defendants reside in different states. In addition, the bill includes several provisions that would protect plaintiffs from settlements in which they receive coupons for discounts on goods and services and their attorneys receive large payouts (California Healthline, 2/11).
Bush said that he would sign the legislation into law to "help protect people who are wrongfully harmed while reducing the frivolous lawsuits that clog our courts, hurt the economy, cost jobs and burden American businesses" (Drinkard, USA Today, 2/18).
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said that the bill represents a "historic first step towards breaking one of the main shackles holding back our economy and America's workforce -- lawsuit abuse" (Washington Post, 2/18).
Stanton Anderson, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Class Action Fairness Coalition, added that the approval of the legislation could prompt Congress to pass bills to limit medical malpractice and asbestos lawsuits (CongressDaily, 2/18).
However, consumer, civil rights and public interest groups maintain that the bill could "deprive seriously injured plaintiffs ... of their day in court by shifting cases to the already overworked federal system," CQ Today reports.
Jillian Aldebron of Public Citizen said, "We are consigning these cases to the abyss" (Stern, CQ Today, 2/17). Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen added that the bill would make class-action lawsuits ineffective against the "everyday frauds and deceptions that happen all the time" (Washington Post, 2/18).
Helen Gonzales of USAction said, "The House of Representatives joined the Senate in sending a clear message to the nation: the rights of large corporations that take advantage of seniors, low-wage workers and local communities are more important than the rights of average American citizens" (Holland, AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/18).