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“Fairness”? Ha! HR 1927 Kills Class Action Lawsuits, Protects Volkswagen and Other Corporate Liars

Here’s the first bill of 2016 for Rep. Kristi Noem, Senator John Thune, and Senator Mike Rounds to oppose: H.R. 1927, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, FCALA, which is short for F-C- ALl-yA who bought those rigged Volkswagens.

Volkswagen faces a number of class action lawsuits from diesel VW owners and dealers. FCALA would kill many of those class action lawsuits by narrowing the definition of “class” to near impossibility and forcing litigants to prove their case before going to trial:

…the bill [states] that courts may not certify class-action suits unless the plaintiff “affirmatively demonstrates that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives.”

“This is devastating because it sets up all class-actions to fail,” says attorney Lori Andrus, who represents several Volkswagen plaintiffs. If every class member must have the same type and scope of injury, it forces extensive proofs for class certification — essentially a full-blown trial up front, where plaintiffs will have to prove that their injuries match with their fellow representatives.

…In the Volkswagen case, for example, “it could mean the same model car, the same defeat device, the same emissions system, the same consumer harm,” [VW class action plaintiffs’ attorney Andre] Mura says. “When really Volkswagen engaged in the same course of conduct on all their vehicles.” Defense attorneys could claim that a class representative who released fewer emissions because they drove fewer miles than their colleagues, or drove in harsher weather, or with lower tire pressure, should be excluded from the case. That could either whittle down classes to limit damages or disqualify them from certification [David Dayen, “A Bailout for Volkswagen? Congress Wants to Do Something Absolutely Crazy,” The Fiscal Times, 2016.01.04].

FCALA set off alarms even before the Volkswagen scandal, with numerous consumer advocates and public interest groups recognizing that the bill is a Chamber of Commerce-backed ploy to insulate corporations from wronged customers who may suffer varying types and scopes of injury that are too small to litigate individually but, multiplied 600,000, demand justice from the guilty corporation.

The Justice Department filed a civil suit on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency to take up to $22.5 billion out of Volkswagen’s hide. At least the Executive Branch has a sense of justice. Let’s see if the Legislative Branch can follow suit and protect citizens’ right to band together in class-action lawsuits to fight powerful and abusive corporations.

The House can vote on FCALA this week. They didn’t yesterday, when the House convened for under four minutes to note that they couldn’t do any business. But that’s o.k., since VW owners and dealers and other individuals who might be harmed by corporate lies now have time to send Rep. Noem (and if she won’t listen, Senators Thune and Rounds) a message: don’t vote for this latest squirt of corporate welfare. Vote down H.R. 1927 so citizens can hold corporate miscreants accountable.

p.s.: I drive a 2002 gasoline powered VW Beetle, purchased used in 2011. It passed 200,000 miles this fall and runs like a son of a gun. I have no financial interest in any pending or potential lawsuit over the current Volkswagen diesel emissions rigging scandal.

pp.s.: Watch out: even if our Congressional delegation kills this bad bill, pro-corporate front group ALEC is pumping the states with model legislation that would gut consumers’ ability to hold lying, cheating corporations’ feet to the fire of consumer protection laws.

7 Comments

  1. mike from iowa 2016-01-05

    Volkswagen pretty much admitted rigging emissions test. Sounds guilty to me,unless wingnuts can legally change the definition of guilt.

  2. Porter Lansing 2016-01-05

    It’s a disturbing trend that consumer’s rights are eroding. Corporate greed never sleeps and Republicans are compliant.

  3. jerry 2016-01-05

    The German press acknowledges the fraud as well from Der Spiegel, this may require translation. http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/volkswagen-usa-reichen-klage-wegen-verstosses-gegen-umweltgesetze-ein-a-1070449.html Not only do the republicans support fraud, they encourage it with this bill.

    What this is a clear meddling into the affairs for a foreign company that has ties to a GOP insider, Bob Corker of Tennessee. Chattanooga has a big US presence for VW in the USA and wouldn’t you know that Thune is a close ally to Corker. Wherever Slim goes, NOem will follow. Team Hawks should be all over this like a dirty diaper to put NOem on notice that we are all aware of the consequences of this and the future of more bailouts to foreign interests as well. To me, this could include the Keystone XL

  4. jerry 2016-01-05

    A Minnesota meat packing plant has recalled some 89,000 pounds of meat, that is a lot of money. Blue Bell icecream is also involved in Justice Department investigations. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dept-of-justice-investigating-blue-bell-for-deadly-listeria-outbreak/

    The law that Thune and NOem and their cronies are going to be addressing is protection of those that seek to do the consumers harm either by poison of the body or by poison of the wallet. Democrats need to stand against this not only politically, but morally as well.

  5. mike from iowa 2016-01-05

    I own a Jeep that was recalled because the gas tank is exposed just like the old Ford Pinto. The remedy finally settled upon between the gubmint and Chrysler is to replace the old trailer hitch with a shiny new one,but the problem is the exact same and the Jeeps are not any safer from rear-end crashes than Pintos were.So,I got a new hitch.but I have to buy a new insert to attach the ball to. The new hitch is bigger than the old one.

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