Class Action Lottery Frivolous, Tort Reform Necessary

Today, Iowa Citizens for a Sound Economy (ICSE) lashed out against frivolous lawsuits, demanding that the legal system be returned to honest Americans with real grievances.

“Right now trial lawyers are using a legal tool called the class action to rob decent, honest Americans of their money, trust, freedom and peace of mind” said Iowa CSE Director Jason Gross. “It’s time to stop this injustice.”

Iowa CSE will hold a rally today at the state capitol in support of tort reform. The noon rally will feature State Rep. Charles Larson, Jr. and State Sen. Larry McKibben.

“This rally is a way to let legislators know that real citizens want lawsuit abuse to end, and that we will no longer put up with the justice system being used a tool to rob our pocketbooks,” Gross said.

The U.S. House passed legislation that would make it easier to get class actions into federal court, where judges are more inclined to put the interests of the class members ahead of those of the trial lawyers. The legislation makes it easier to have a federal judge (who is more inclined to look out for the interests of class members, rather than class lawyers) rule on whether specific circumstances warrant a class action.

A class action is a procedural device used in state and federal courts where the claims of hundreds or even thousands of individuals are ruled upon in one court case. Used for their intended purpose, class actions can be a positive device, but plaintiffs’ lawyers, like the ones we see on TV, are abusing class actions at the state level.

Many times these lawyers file class actions and make millions in legal fees, while the class members they’re supposed to represent receive coupons, pennies or actually end up paying. For instance:

The Chicago Tribune reported that a class action settlement allowed for an $8.5 million payment to the class lawyers, while members of the class actually had their mortgage accounts debited by $93.

An editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune bemoaned a class settlement where the lawyers received $140,000, while each class member received a paltry 93 cents.

And most recently, the lawyers suing the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes are set to receive $3 million, while the members of that class are given pennies or more chances to win.

Consumer class members have no control over how these cases are handled. Again and again, they find themselves forced into a settlement where they receive little, while the lawyers receive millions.

How can this be happening? State courts many times do not enforce the rules that govern class actions. Meaning, they allow class actions to go forward and eventually settle even though the class members may have been better off bringing their own lawsuit.

By stopping frivolous class actions, we can give back our legal system to decent honest Americans with real grievances.