October 22, 2003
Contact: Sally Greenberg, 202-462-6262
Senators Reject Anti-Consumer Measure Limiting Right to Sue in State Courts
(Washington, DC) — Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, commended members of the Senate who had the courage today to stand up to powerful corporate interests and vote to preserve the right of state courts to hear class action cases.
“Senators who voted ‘no’ have courageously stood up to powerful interests and in so doing, they have cast a pro-consumer, pro-civil rights and pro-environmental vote,” said Sally Greenberg, senior product safety counsel for Consumers Union. “This was a David and Goliath battle. The pressure on Senators to vote against consumer, civil rights and environmental interests has been enormous.”
By a 59-39 vote, the Senate rejected a motion to proceed on S. 1751, the so-called Class Action Fairness Act which would have which limited the right of state citizens to hold out-of-state companies accountable for violations of state law. By rejecting the motion, the bill was effectively killed.
“The big business lobby has spent literally millions of dollars to tip the balance in favor of corporate wrongdoers by giving defendants a nearly unlimited right to go to federal court, where businesses feel they get more favorable treatment,” Greenberg said.
Opponents of S. 1751 said prohibiting all state courts from hearing class action cases was simply unnecessary. They point out that tort reform measures already adopted in a number of states address cases where there might have been instances of forum-shopping abuse.
Moreover, Consumers Union has supported some reforms in the class action process, including bills Medicare Modernization Act ed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and another offered by Senator John Breaux’s (D-LA). Those bills would change the coupon settlement process and allow consolidation of duplicative class action lawsuits filed in multiple states. Neither of these bills have been the subject of hearings nor considered by the full Senate.
The coalition of groups opposing the legislation included environmental, civil rights, consumer, labor, women’s and senior citizen groups, along with the association of state court judges and the Judicial Conference of the United States.