Lawmaker's proposal would limit class certification abuse at lower court level

By Kyle Barnett | Apr 5, 2013

BATON ROUGE, La. – A recent proposal introduced in the state House would require higher standards for certifying class action lawsuits.

HB472, authored by first term Representative Jay Morris (R–Monroe), would put a higher burden of proof on those who bring class action lawsuits in lower courts.

Morris said class actions are costly to defend and he believes judges sometimes do not require enough information before allowing them to proceed.

The bill proposes that all members of the large suits have the same claim without question from the court.

“In my view it really shouldn’t be needed, but sometimes you have to write laws in a little more mandatory fashion. It closes a few loopholes, but I’m not looking to eliminate class actions.” He said. “This bill simply tightens up the requirements for class certification and it makes it more clear.”

Morris said he has found that sometimes plaintiff’s attorneys are wrongly lumping together dissimilar cases into one class action.

“In my opinion, it is really unfair to the defendant because once you get the class certified they are looking at turning what might be a $1,000 claim into a $1 million claim or a $100,000 claim into a $5 million claim,” he said. “I think that you just need to be fair to defendants and make sure that you just don’t cherry pick a good claim and try to extrapolate that claim across a big class when those facts may not apply to everyone.”

Morris said he has seen numerous cases be certified by a court only to later be decertified and dismissed.

“In Louisiana at times, depending on what jurisdiction you are in, there is not a lot of scrutiny applied to the requirements of class action certification,” he said. “A lot of cases end up getting decertified after the defendant has spent, depending on the situation, $100,000 to $5 million in defense costs before the case was ultimately decertified.”

The ultimate goal of HB472, according to Morris, is to keep class action lawsuits that should have never been certified in the first place out of the court system.

“At the end of the day either the defendants get pressured to settle or they fight it for years on end and it is ultimately so convoluted that it can get decertified and all that money is just down the drain and the plaintiffs and the defendants don’t come out with anything,” he said.

The bill has been assigned to the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure who will have the first look at the legislation upon commencement of the legislative session on April 8.

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