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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Cole Votes for Class Action Fairness Act of 2003

June 12, 2003
Press Release

Washington D.C.-Congressman Cole today voted for the Class Action Fairness Act (H.R. 1115) of 2003, which establishes a bill of rights for the consumer and gives the Federal court jurisdiction over interstate class action suits when less than two-thirds of the plaintiffs are from the same state. The House passed this legislation 253-170.

     "This piece of legislation is a major step forward in the tort reform battle. It is necessary to revamp the current system to protect consumers from lawyers who pass along small settlements and large attorney fees. In the last ten years, class action filings in state courts have increased 1,000 percent. And the lawyer fees for these cases are then passed on to the American consumer in the form of higher prices for goods and services, diminished returns on retirement plans and overall strain to the economy. Court shopping has become a common practice of big time lawyers who try to find the most plaintiff friendly court," Congressman Tom Cole said.

     "This legislation moves most class action suits over $2 million to the federal courts where the rules of conduct are consistent, the quality of judges high and the interests of the plaintiffs from multiple states are well represented," Congressman Cole said.

     "This legislation does not take away the rights of plaintiffs or class members to engage in a lawsuit. Class action lawsuits are important when serving as an efficient tool for a large group, with similar complaints, to file a joint lawsuit. The problem arises when lawyers representing thousands of people across state lines have no regard to consumer's rights," Congressman Cole said.

    H.R. 1115 includes a "Consumer Class Action Bill of Rights" that includes:

enhanced judicial scrutiny of coupon settlements
protection against settlements that would result in a net momentary loss to plaintiffs
regulation against the unjustified payment of bounties to class representatives; and
protection for out-of-state class members against settlements that favor certain class members over others based upon where the live.