BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch enjoyed seeing the U.S. House of Representatives recently pass the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017.
The House passed the bill, known as House Resolution 985, by a vote of 220-201 on March 9, according to a report by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
According to a report on the National Law Journal, the first bill would change many aspects of class actions in order to cut down how many exist, with a focus on those looking for “large payouts for speculative or nonexistent injuries.” Also, attorney fees would be tied to the settlement amounts, place restrictions on “who plaintiffs attorneys could represent,” and put a stop to discovery in the initial phases of cases.
The connected bill would make quarterly reports of payments made to victims of asbestos-related illnesses required to be filed by bankrupt-company trusts. This was needed, according to the bill's supporters, to counter attorneys who have kept evidence withheld in suits filed for those who have made claims against said trusts.
LLAW Executive Director Melissa Landry told the Louisiana Record via email that the bill has “many important reforms.”
“That will help stop lawsuit abuse and improve our civil-justice system,” she said.
Landry said the bill motivates lawyers to give their top efforts in helping their clients.
“By incentivizing lawyers to do the best work for their clients, HR 985 will help ensure fairer, more-efficient outcomes for claimants and defendants in class-action litigation," she said. "By shining a light on the asbestos bankruptcy trust system, it will also discourage opportunistic personal-injury lawyers from filing false or exaggerated claims that take away from resources that should be used to pay future victims.”
Landry said there has been a recent surge in attorneys trying to use the legal system for their own benefit.
“Frivolous litigation has skyrocketed in recent years as more and more personal-injury trial lawyers have sought to use and abuse our legal system for their own personal gain, often at the expense of the clients they purport to represent," she said.
Landry hopes the bill helps claimants receive the most that they can for their injuries or sicknesses.
“Today, it is estimated more than 60 different bankruptcy trusts collectively manage over $40 billion in compensation funds that have been set aside for veterans and others exposed to asbestos," she said. "This complex network of bankruptcy trusts operates with very little oversight, and there is ample evidence that some are gaming the system.
“HR 985 will help cut down on this abuse by requiring quarterly reports on claims made to the trusts while taking measures to protect claimants’ personal information. By weeding out bad actors who are abusing the current system, HR 985 will also help preserve funds for future claimants and ensure that all deserving victims receive the maximum relief for their illness and injuries.”
Landry said LLAW “fully supports” the act.
"We applaud the overwhelming majority of Louisiana House delegation that voted for HR 985 including Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre; Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Benton; Rep. Ralph Abraham, R–Mangham; and Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge," Landry said.