Proposed Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017 Seeks to Curb Attorney Abuses of Class Action Device and Expand Class Action Defendant Protections
By Brian M. Forbes, Joseph C. Wylie II, Molly K. McGinley, Jennifer Janeira Nagle, and Matthew N. Lowe
On February 9, 2017, Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017 (the “Act” or “H.R. 985”).  The Act significantly expands the class action reforms proposed in an earlier version of the bill that stalled after passage in the U.S. House of Representatives  and imposes significant new restrictions on class action lawyers and plaintiffs seeking to proceed under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as implementing new rules applicable to cases consolidated through the multidistrict litigation process. The stated purposes of the Act are to: (1) “assure fair and prompt recoveries for class members and multidistrict litigation plaintiffs with legitimate claims;” (2) “diminish abuses in class action and mass tort litigation that are undermining the integrity of the U.S. legal system;” and (3) “restore the intent of the framers of the United States Constitution by ensuring Federal court consideration of interstate controversies of national importance consistent with diversity jurisdiction principles.”  In a press release, Rep. Goodlatte announced that the objective of the proposed legislation is to “keep baseless class action suits away from innocent parties, while still keeping the doors to justice open for parties with real and legitimate claims, and maximizing their recoveries.”
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