By a 72-26 vote, with 18 Democrats and Vermont’s Jeffords joining a unanimous roster of Republicans, the Senate has approved this bill, which would 1) move most interstate class actions from state into federal court and 2) regulate various practices such as the use of coupon settlements. House approval and a Presidential signature are expected in short order, giving the returning Bush administration its first major legislative victory and dealing a rare defeat to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Such defeats have been so rare that CAFA, though hardly radical and not a little watered down from earlier versions, probably constitutes the most ambitious tort-reform measure to pass at the federal level in recent decades. (New York Times).
For some of this site’s past posts on the bill, see Apr. 25-27, Jun. 12-15 and Jun. 25, and Sept. 28, and Oct. 21, 2003. Jim Copland and others have wall-to-wall coverage of the new developments at Point of Law, including posts on the roll call; background (including links to four past Manhattan Institute studies on the issue); the “magnet-court” problem; and last but not least, a new Manhattan Institute study by Yale law prof George Priest taking a closer look at some widely circulated statistics about class settlements, and opining that CAFA would be a useful if limited first step in addressing the problems raised by such litigation.
Elsewhere on the web, some plaintiff’s-side observers are pointing out that the new rules ushered in by the bill will likely be actively beneficial to the practice of some lawyers who specialize in filing such suits (though detrimental to others’), and that some businesses that get sued are likely to find their position worsened (not only may they find it harder to enter cheap coupon settlements, for example, but they may face a proliferation of one-state-only class actions). See, in particular, Evan Schaeffer and C. E. Petit (“Scrivener’s Error”). Meanwhile, Dwight Meredith perhaps surprisingly “do[es] not oppose the proposed reform of class action suits” but believes its GOP sponsors are being inconsistent, and Bill Childs wonders if there’s more to the debate besides money. Finally, Baseball Crank points out a possibly headache-making technical aspect of the bill.