March 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. House passed a bill Thursday that would restrict the number and size of class-action lawsuits, with one Democratic lawmaker accusing Republicans of giving "the finger" to Americans who have been injured by large corporations.
The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act passed the House 220-201. The legislation does not outlaw class-action suits, but requires the trial judge to certify that each individual in the class of plaintiffs has suffered the same level of injury.
Republicans argued that overly broad class-action lawsuits allow trial lawyers to artificially increase the size of a class, allowing them to "extort" larger settlement offers and jury verdicts by making it appear more people were affected than actually were.
"The purpose of a class action is to provide a fair means of evaluating similar meritorious claims, not to provide a way for lawyers to artificially inflate this size of a class to extort a larger settlement fee for themselves, siphoning money away from those actually injured and increasing prices for everyone," said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas.
Democrats shot back that people injured by large corporations should be allowed to band together, because forcing them to wage individual legal battles would give the advantage to corporations and their large legal teams.
"I oppose this misguided legislation because it sends another huge Valentine and wet kiss to large corporate polluters and tortfesors, but gives the finger to millions of American citizens who suffer injuries from these defendants," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.
An array of liberal interest groups from organized labor, environmentalist and civil rights groups joined Democrats in opposing the bill.