Most of the proposed procedural rule changes in Representative Bob Goodlatte’s “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017,” introduced last week in the House of Representatives, are directly traceable to the business lobby’s anti-class-action talking points. Goodlatte – a Virginia Republican and chair of the House Judiciary Committee – has significantly expanded the changes he proposed last year in a similarly named bill that was approved in the House but died in the Senate. If Congress adopts Goodlatte’s bill in anything like its current form, class actions and MDLs will be a shadow of what we know today.
The bill would limit class certification to class actions in which plaintiffs all “suffered the same type and scope of injury” and would bar certification unless courts can ascertain class membership and assure that only injured plaintiffs recover. Class action lawyers would not be able to sue on behalf of relatives and employees – or any other client with whom they have an ongoing contractual or attorney-client relationship. Class certification decisions would be automatically appealable. Attorneys’ fees in class actions resolved through injunctions would be limited to a percentage of the “value of the equitable relief.”