WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 23, 1999 – The Interstate Class Action Jurisdiction Act (H.R. 1875) passed the House of Representatives 222 to 207 to the applause of small and large businesses across the country, according to the United States Chamber of Commerce.
“This bill will stop abusive cases that trample the rights of defendants and do little more than line the pockets of unscrupulous trial lawyers,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Bruce Josten. “HR 1875 is bi-partisan lawmaking at its best.” The bill, sponsored by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Jim Moran (D-VA), now moves to the Senate.
“The Senate should take its cue from the House and deny legal chicanery a place in our courts,” said Josten. “A variety of legal ruses in states with lax rules and procedures are preventing class action suits from being heard where they belong: in federal court. This bill will go a long way toward improving the rights of defendants and protecting the interests of plaintiffs.”
More and more class action suits are being kept in the state court system by attorneys seeking an unfair “home field” advantage. This “gaming” of the system has resulted in higher prices, higher insurance premiums, lower earnings and outrageous litigation costs for both defendants and plaintiffs. In some cases, multi-million dollar awards go entirely to cover lawyers’ bills and the actual claimants receive little or nothing. Large, diverse class action cases, with parties from different states, are better served by the federal courts than state courts.
The Interstate Class Action Jurisdiction Act of 1999 guarantees that many of the more abusive class action suits that are now caught in state courts will be eligible for federal jurisdiction. The bill is procedural in nature and does not undermine the rights of plaintiffs to sue. The legislation simply recognizes that certain large, interstate class actions more appropriately belong in federal court.
“Swift action by the Senate and the Administration is vitally important to America’s businesses,” said Josten.