Class-Action Lawsuits Protect the Consumer

Article excerpt

Dick Thornburgh's attack on lawyers and class-action lawsuits was not only unnecessary, but irresponsible ("End class action abuse," Op-Ed, Oct. 30).

Mr. Thornburgh, the former U.S. attorney general, now lobbies in Washington on behalf of major American corporations. As a result, he surely must know that corporate America was instrumental in creating the class-action mechanism used today to resolve large numbers of claims.

The business community supports class actions because this legal mechanism generally promotes efficiency and timely resolution of claims. For example, companies that negligently injure a large number of people often prefer to have causation and the extent of their liability determined in one proceeding rather than defend perhaps thousands of individual claims in separate trials.

For the record, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) strongly supports every citizen's constitutional right to a jury trial. ATLA believes class actions should be used only when society's interest in deterring wrongful conduct can be maintained, when individual litigation would be impractical and when the rights of injured Americans to fair and timely compensation can be protected. ATLA opposes class actions that attempt to decide the rights of future claimants who have not yet been injured.

Mr. Thornburgh unfortunately - and unfairly - seized on a few class actions that he believes are unjustified or in which the attorneys seemingly were paid too much. …