The United States House of Representatives has passed the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017 (H.R. 985) by a 220 to 201 margin. The bill now moves to the Senate where its chances of passage in its current form are low and proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for a similar bill in the last Congress. The bill would effectively make class action lawsuits against businesses more difficult to bring by creating a higher threshold for certifying a class. Specifically, the bill requires the federal trial courts to become more effective gatekeepers by not certifying a class unless the plaintiff can establish that the proposed class suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named representative. The bill also makes a number of procedural changes to federal law that are generally viewed as providing more protections for defendants. The bill has the support of several business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform wrote in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee:
This legislation would address multiple problems associated with overbroad and procedurally abusive class actions and mass tort multidistrict ligation (“MDL”) proceedings. Every year, these proceedings cost American businesses millions of dollars in legal fees, divert finite resources away from true victims, and often result in settlements where nobody wins, except the lawyers. ILR, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber Commerce, is dedicated to making our nation’s civil justice system simpler, faster, and fairer for all participants. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.