New York, New York—March 10, 2017— Chaffin Luhana LLP, a national plaintiffs-only law firm, has joined the American Association for Justice (AAJ) in asking for public resistance to two new laws proposed by the House of Representatives. Both stand to severely limit Americans’ rights to consumer justice.
H.R. 985, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017,” purports to amend current procedures in Federal court class actions and multidistrict litigation proceedings to “assure fairer, more efficient outcomes for claimants and defendants.” A similar bill was proposed in 2016 but died in the Senate. Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte introduced the bill again recently to the new administration with expanded changes that partner Roopal Luhana says will severely limit the ability of everyday citizens to band together and hold corporations responsible for negligent and illegal behavior.
“One of the big issues with this bill is the restriction on who can join a class action lawsuit,” Luhana says. “The bill would limit any class to a very narrow population, excluding relatives and employees and others who may be affected by a defective product or medication. It requires the court to audit all payments, which could potentially slow payouts to plaintiffs, and it prohibits individuals from hiring the same lawyer twice, seriously limiting their access to attorneys experienced in this type of litigation.”
H.R. 1215, the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” purports to improve access to health care services by “reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.” Approved by a House committee at the end of February, it would cap non-economic medical malpractice payouts to $250,000, provide hospitals and other medical care centers immunity in lawsuits against drug companies, and preempt medical malpractice law in many states.
“This is really a bill protecting unsafe hospitals and nursing homes, insurance companies, and makers of unsafe medications,” Luhana said. “Lobbyists, professional medical societies, hospitals, and drug manufacturers could look forward to reduced accountability, but patients seriously harmed by these entities, particularly the elderly and children, would have a much harder time recovering.”
Several members of Congress, as well as disability advocacy groups, consumer justice organizations and civil rights groups, have expressed their opposition to both of these bills. The AAJ, in particular, issued statements condemning those who backed the bills for shielding powerful corporate wrongdoers.
AAJ CEO Linda Lipsen noted that the so-called Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act would “eviscerate class actions” and deny justice to Americans harmed by “unsafe products and toxic workplaces.” The Protecting Access to Care Act would, in turn, “punish patients who are injured or killed by even the intentional acts of a health care provider.”
Chaffin Luhana has joined with the AAJ and other consumer justice advocates to send an urgent message to Congress that these bills are unacceptable and must fail. The firm asks those who agree to contact their representatives as soon as possible and urge them to vote “no” on both H.R. 985 and H.R. 1215.
“We’ve made some great strides forward in protecting citizens’ rights,” Luhana said. “Now is not the time to reverse that progress.”