Raving Conservative


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Debate of the Week #6: Class Action Lawsuits

Back to the serious stuff. Class action lawsuits, for or against?

Here’s what I think:

Against, against, against! Evil I say! Horribly, despicably evil!

Greedy scumbag lawyers recruiting as many so-called “victims” as possible into a massive lawsuit designed exclusively for the purpose of squeezing the biggest judgment possible out of the defendant so they can get rich while tossing the scraps to their hundreds or thousands of clients. After a class action is won by the offending lawyer he/she takes at least a third of the settlement as the personal fee, then up to another third to cover “legal expenses and personnel” the remaining third or less is what finally gets spread around the many clients who joined in the lawsuit. The lawyer makes millions, even tens of millions and the clients get hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in return.

The vetting process for joining in class action lawsuits is weak to nonexistent. It’s this way for a reason: so the lawyers can slap as many people on the plaintiff list as possible to get the highest payout possible. Many people have fraudulently joined class action lawsuits simply because they were asked if they wanted in on it.

The lawyers do recruit as many people as possible too. Who among us hasn’t seen a commercial that’s part of a nation wide campaign asking people to join in a class action lawsuit? How about the same on the radio? How about getting letters in the mail asking you to join a lawsuit against a company that provides a product you have never used? What about the same in you email? These are expensive ad campaigns, and they are being paid for because the lawyers prosecuting the case know that if they win, and they usually do, they will reap personal financial rewards far greater than their initial investment, not because they actually care about their clients in any way.

We all pay for this travesty. We pay for it in the form of higher prices for goods that companies must charge just to stay afloat after being robbed of millions or hundreds of millions, or as in the case of Big Tobacco, billions of dollars. We pay for it in needed drugs and other products that never hit the market because despite the essential purpose they serve the risks involved for the company are too great when compared to the payout. Imagine hearing this from Merk “Sure, we developed a cure for AIDS ten years ago, but we couldn’t release it because it kills one out every thousand people who takes it. AIDS has a 100% mortality rate, but we still would have been sued out of existence by the families of the people who died from the drug. So rather than saving 999 out of every thousand AIDS victims we just had to let them all die.” Don’t think crap like this hasn’t happened.

What do you think?


  • I think the same way you do: Class action suits should be illegal. If individuals have a valid reason to sue a corporation, that's one thing; let them go and get a lawyer and sue. If the case is valid it's easy enough to find a lawyer who will take the case to trial and wait until the settlement to collect, because the lawyer knows he/she will win it, so anyone with or without money is capable of suing whether they have money or not. If they don't have a valid case that a lawyer won't take on without being paid up front then they don't need to be suing in the first place.

    Class action suits are only a scam to make lawyers rich who aren't capable of making money on their own. Any lawyer involved in a class action suit is a scam artist and ought to be disbarred!

    The above is not only my opinion. I have worked as a paralegal and the lawyer I worked for felt the same way I do. I have also heard other lawyers verbalize the same sentiments.

    Good post! It got me on a rant!

    By Blogger Gayle, at 5:50 AM  

  • Joe Harding worked at the Department of Energy's Paducah, Ky., uranium enrichment plant and died in 1980 of cancer at age 58. He was one of a half-million people who processed nuclear and other materials and turned them into the 70,000 nuclear warheads that the United States produced during the Cold War. He worked in a highly polluted environment and died with uranium in his bones. Yet, the DOE and its contractor denied that radiation might have caused his illness.

    My wife's uncle was one of the fellas killed by this exposure. His family and hundreds (thousands?) of co-workers were helped by a class action lawsuit.

    Union Carbide demonstrated a reckless and depraved indifference to human life in the design, operation and maintenance of the Union Carbide of India facility which resulted in the devastating leak of massive amounts of methyl isocyanate into the city... At least 6,000 people died immediately following the disaster, and tens of thousands continue to suffer from what amounts to the largest industrial disaster in history.

    Union Carbide declined to take responsibility. These people were helped by a class action lawsuit.

    Would individual suits (for those with the wherewithal to pursue them) have had the same effect as the class action lawsuit?

    What say you: Do you approve of these class action lawsuits?

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 7:14 AM  

  • I think you have to look at these sort of things on a case by case basis. I find it revolting that as soon as Vioxx was declared dangerous, I began hearing all these ads on the radio basically coersing people into joining a class action suit against Merke.

    On the other hand, in cases such as PG&E and the Erin Brochovich suit, I think class action was the only way possible to effectively sue that billion dollar corporation and win.

    So pick your poison. You have money grubbing lawyers and money grubbing corporations. Without the lawyers, no one can hold big business accountable when they knowingly screw up. I find it hard to feel sorry for many of these large corporations when their CEO's are making 320 times the salary as their general employees. I find it hard to feel sorry for Enron being sued by it's employees after having thier live's savings destroyed. I find it hard to feel for Big Tobacco since they've built their entire business on misleading the public and driving up health insurance premiums to cover those addicted and/or killed by the product they put out.

    By Blogger Drew, at 8:09 AM  

  • "Would individual suits (for those with the wherewithal to pursue them) have had the same effect as the class action lawsuit?"

    "On the other hand, in cases such as PG&E and the Erin Brochovich suit, I think class action was the only way possible to effectively sue that billion dollar corporation and win."

    Both of these statements have the same rebuttal: criminal negligence. Corporations are far more likely to police themselves if the leaders of said corporations are held criminally responsible for knowingly neglecting the health and safety of people. There is no money in criminal cases, so the greedy money-grubbers have no motivation to engage in frivolous criminal prosecution, yet justice will be done by the legal system.

    Knowingly having employees work in a lethal environment without taking the proper legal precautions is Negligent Homicide, a very serious crime with a hefty prison sentence. Knowing that such a prosecution is possible would provide corporate executives with an excellent motivation to keep their business on the up-and-up, much like the criminal prosecution of various corporate officers who engaged in financial fraud is doing to discourage said fraud right now.

    Finally, in such valid situations I would support fines from OSHA that go directly to the people who have been harmed, bypassing the greedy lawyers entirely nad saving us all a great deal of headache and economic harm.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 8:36 AM  

  • I'm okay with the system you've proposed Daniel, if it works. The thing is, we need something that works and right now, the class action lawsuits are one viable response.

    I agree with you that criminal acts ought to receive criminal charges. But it's extremely hard apparently to get these companies on criminal cases. That's part of the problem, in my mind, of our corporate structures, they are above the law and accountability in many ways.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 9:16 AM  

  • daniel, i also think you've found good replacement for all the class-action lawsuits going on right now. and, as far as thinking "that just might not work"...how do you know til you TRY?? I'll never trust a lawyer who has to advertise to get customers. Trust? Not there...

    By Blogger Libby, at 11:21 AM  

  • I agree that I get very put-off by lawyers that advertize for members in a pending class action suit. That does smack of greed and deception.
    However, don't forget the reason why class action suits were created in the first place: to level the playing field between individual workers and corporate entities. Which really just means the party with money vs. the party without. Also, before castigating lawyers for their greed, understand that many lawyers accepting class action liability cases foot all of the expenses pending a judgement in their favor. Read the PG&E case; the law firm that took on the class action nearly went broke in the process. Class actions help mitigate the disparity in economic power between the parties.
    Finally, class action lawsuits also help move legal decisions through the courts more expeditiously. If they were made illegal, instead of having one class action suit against Wal-Mart for its sexually descriminatory management practices, the courts would have thousands of individual cases to consider. Combining all the smaller suits into one class action reduces the burden on the judicial system.

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 11:52 AM  

  • Sam, the lawsuits can be avoided while properly punishing corporate violators by utilizing the system I have proposed. You do make some excellent points though.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 12:43 PM  

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