May 01, 2017 Articles

Proposed Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017

Potential expansion of protections for class action defendants

by G. Gabriel Zorogastua and Parker J. Smith

On March 9, 2017, H.R. 985, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017 (FCALA) was narrowly passed by the House of Representatives. The bill was introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who in a press release described its purpose as "keep[ing] baseless class action suits away from innocent parties, while still keeping the doors to justice open for parties with real and legitimate claims." The FCALA will now advance to the Senate. If passed there and signed by President Trump, dramatic changes to the class action landscape will follow.

Rep. Goodlatte was one of the authors of the 2005 Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), which passed the last time Republicans controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress and altered the field of class action litigation by moving most large interstate class action cases to the federal courts. His efforts to change class action litigation continued when he introduced another class action reform bill in 2015, which passed in the House and died in the Senate. While congressional Democrats will likely oppose the bill, the landscape is ripe for class action reform with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress and the presidency.

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