The enactment of the Class Action Fairness Act ten years ago was designed to curb the widespread abuse of frivolous class action lawsuits, while preserving the rights of citizens to bring such actions. It also enabled those involved in lawsuits to transfer the case from the state courts to the federal courts. However, some contend that more needs to be done to curb additional class actions abuses, namely “no injury” lawsuits and cy pres awards.
“No injury” lawsuits involve plaintiff’s attorneys pursuing claims against product manufacturers alleging misrepresentations of product features or performance. In many of these cases, few, if any, class members have suffered an actual injury from the alleged defective product. In 2013, the US Supreme Court in Comcast v. Behrend made it harder for plaintiffs to obtain class certification in “no injury” and “overbroad” class actions. Yet, the Court also declined to hear two more recent consumer class action lawsuits in Glazer v. Whirlpool Corp. and Butler v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. This will have a significant impact on consumer class actions going forward, particularly on efforts by class action defendants to rely on Comcast in fighting back against overbroad class actions.
Cy pres has become a mechanism for pursuing class action litigation on behalf of class members who cannot easily be identified or whose identification would be cost prohibitive, thereby allowing court-awarded funds to be donated to one or more charities. Cy pres has been around since the 1970’s in class action litigation, but the increased frequency of cy pres awards has legal scholars asking whether cy pres awards have any real legal basis and whether plaintiffs still need to prove their burden of causation and damages.
Please join us for a discussion of class action litigation post Class Action Fairness Act, and whether additional steps should be taken to promote a more efficient civil justice system.
Counsel, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Moderator: Karen M. Czarnecki
Director of Education, Law & Economics Center