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Shorter Republicans to Volkswagen: “Thanks for Ignoring Environmental Laws”

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Just when you think the Republican Party couldn’t sink lower, they do. Dayen:

The combination of regulatory oversight and class-action litigation can keep companies in line. But a bill in Congress consisting of a little more than 100 words would not only prevent Kaplan from seeking justice but also cripple virtually all class-action lawsuits against corporations. It’s known as the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act,” but lawyers and advocates call it the “VW Bailout Bill.”

The bill, which will get a vote on the House floor in the first week of January, follows a series of steps by the judiciary to block the courthouse door on behalf of corporations. “There’s no question the Supreme Court has ben moving in that direction to limit access to courts,” said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy. “But Congress has never done something like this, trying to step in and wipe out class-actions.”

The simplicity of the VW Bailout Bill belies the chaos it would create. Proponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the bill’s leading lobbyist, say they merely want to get rid of “non-injury” class-action cases, based on potential damages from defective consumer products or corporate actions that have yet to result in harm. Lawyers for class-action litigants argue that defective products deserve compensation even if the consumer hasn’t yet been injured.

But the bill goes much further, stating that courts may not certify class-action suits unless the plaintiff “affirmatively demonstrates that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives.”

“This is devastating because it sets up all class-actions to fail,” says attorney Lori Andrus, who represents several Volkswagen plaintiffs. If every class member must have the same type and scope of injury, it forces extensive proofs for class certification — essentially a full-blown trial up front, where plaintiffs will have to prove that their injuries match with their fellow representatives.

Obviously this goes nowhere with a Democratic president, although Dayen worries that it could be included in some omnibus bill. With a Republican president? Forget about environmental law and class action lawsuits up and down the line in this nation.

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