By Colleen Kave, J.D.
A bill seeking to impose new limits on class certification and multidistrict litigations (MDLs) passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 220-201, with one member of the House voting Present. H. R. 985, known as the "Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017," purports to "assure fair and prompt recoveries for class members and multidistrict litigation plaintiffs with legitimate claims; diminish abuses in class action and mass tort litigation that are undermining the integrity of the U.S. legal system; and 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."
The bill, introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) proposes that an order granting certification of a class action seeking monetary relief for personal injury or economic loss will only be issued by a federal court if the party seeking to maintain such a class action affirmatively demonstrates that each proposed class member has suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives. Moreover, class action lawyers must disclose whether any proposed class representative or named plaintiff is a relative of, a present or former employee of, a present of former client of, or has any contractual relationship with class counsel, and courts will not grant an order certifying any class action in which any proposed class representative or named plaintiff falls into one of those categories.
With regard to MDLs, plaintiffs seeking redress for personal injury must submit evidence of their alleged injury within the first 45 days after the action is transferred to or directly filed in the multidistrict proceeding or the matter will be dismissed. Appellate courts will consider appeals provided that an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of one or more civil actions in the proceedings, and plaintiffs shall receive not less than 80 percent of any monetary recovery obtained in an action by settlement, judgment, or otherwise.
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