Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Contact: Sally Greenberg, 202-462-6262
Asks Senate to Defeat Measure
(Washington, DC) – Victims of discrimination, consumer fraud, gun violence and environmental hazards may never again be able to use their own state courts to hear their class action claims under the so-called Class Action Fairness Act being debated in the Senate today.
Consumers Union has joined more than 70 consumer organizations and civil rights groups, along with attorney generals from 11 states, the Judicial Conference of the United States, and the Conference of Chief Justices in opposing S. 1751, which limits the right of state citizens to hold out-of-state companies accountable for violations of state law.
“This bill makes no sense. It would mean persons with local claims may end up having to travel hundreds of miles from their homes to be heard only in a federal court, which is a ridiculous hardship to impose,” said Sally Greenberg, senior product safety counsel for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports “What’s worse, ultimately their cases may be decided by federal appellate judges sitting in courts that could be hundreds of miles away.”
Greenberg said flaws in the current class action process must be addressed with carefully tailored reforms, not a broad-brush makeover of the legal process that leaves consumers shortchanged. “This is a David and Goliath battle. Corporate wrongdoers are seeking to manipulate the court system, sending all class actions to the federal court that they regard as friendlier to corporate interests. We are asking the Senate not to upset the equilibrium that exists currently,” Greenberg said.
Consumers Union supports the “National Class Action Act of 2003,” sponsored by Senator John Breaux, which provides the right balance – preserving citizens’ access to both state and federal courts while addressing the issue of coupon settlements and other class action practices in need of reform.
“We are asking Senators to side with the little guy in this debate – consumers who are victims of scams, communities victimized by toxic pollution, working people whose employers force them to work overtime but won’t pay them for that overtime. They deserve their day in court – and that court should be in their own communities,” Greenberg said.