Mr. DEUTCH. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
The CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Florida will be postponed.
AMENDMENT NO. 5 OFFERED BY MS.
The CHAIR. It is now in order to consider amendment No. 5 printed in House Report 114-389.
Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Madam Chair, I have an amendment at the desk.
The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Line 10 on the first page, strike ``and scope''.
Line 8 on the first page, strike ``or economic loss''.
The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 581, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Johnson) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Madam Chair, I think most of all that we have had a vigorous discussion on behalf of the American people. I hope they are listening.
I hope my colleagues are listening because, as I listened to the debate myself, I heard a continuing theme: Let's bash the plaintiffs and those seeking justice and make sure we make our friends who want to eliminate costs, eliminate the road to justice, provide them with an opportunity to reconfigure the road that has the Lady Justice balanced scales as a symbol of this system.
When I heard my colleague from Texas, a good friend, talk about costs and making sure that the individuals in the class are spread out so that they are limited in the ability to press their case, I got the answer. Again, I say that a one-way street to justice is unacceptable. There are too many people who died that I cannot stand on this floor and deny those who are sick and ailing or those who had in the 1950s thalidomide where babies were born with malformations because women took medicine
that had not been tested.
The Jackson Lee amendment would provide a balanced approach to the bill's disclosure requirements by applying transparency rules in the bill equally to the asbestos industry defendants. Specifically, this amendment will require that an asbestos defendant seeking information from the trusts about a plaintiff to first make available to the plaintiff and trust information about the median settlement amount paid by that defendant for claims settled or paid within 5 years of the date of the request
for the State in which the plaintiff's actions were filed.
The American Bar Association understands my point. Frankly, in their comments, they made the following statement that I think is important: ``We oppose legislation such as H.R. 1927, because it would unnecessarily circumvent the Rules Enabling Act, make it more difficult for large numbers of injured parties to efficiently seek redress in court''--again, a one-way street--``and could place added burdens on the already overloaded court system.'' The ABA goes on to relate how this bill is a poor
bill. [Page: H197]
I include their letter for the Record.
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION,
Washington, DC, January 6, 2016.
Hon. Paul Ryan,
House of Representatives,
Hon. Nancy Pelosi,
House of Representatives,
DEAR SPEAKER RYAN AND MINORITY LEADER PELOSI: On behalf of the American Bar Association and its over 400,000 members, I write to offer our views as the House considers class action reform. I understand that you intend to bring up H.R. 1927, the ``Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015,'' as early as this week. The ABA has long recognized that we must continue to improve our judicial system; however, we oppose legislation such as H.R. 1927, because it would unnecessarily circumvent
the Rules Enabling Act, make it more difficult for large numbers of injured parties to efficiently seek redress in court, and could place added burdens on an already overloaded court system.
This legislation would circumvent the time-proven process for amending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure established by Congress in the Rules Enabling Act. Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs determinations whether class certification is appropriate. This rule was adopted in 1966 and has been amended several times utilizing the procedure established by Congress. The Judicial Conference, the policymaking body for the courts, is currently considering changes to Rule 23, and
we recommend allowing this process to continue. In addition, the Supreme Court is poised to rule on cases where there are questions surrounding class certification. For example, the Court recently heard arguments in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo where it will determine whether a class can be certified when it contains some members who have not been injured. We respectfully urge you to allow these processes for examining and reshaping procedural and evidentiary rules to work as Congress intended.
Currently, to proceed with a class action case, plaintiffs must meet rigorous threshold standards. A 2008 study by the Federal Judicial Center found that only 25 percent of diversity actions filed as class actions resulted in class certification motions, nine percent settled, and none went to trial. These data show that current screening practices are working. However, if the proponents of this legislation are concerned about frivolous class action cases and believe that screening can be even
more effective through rule changes, those changes should be proposed and considered utilizing the current process set forth by Congress in the Rules Enabling Act.
In addition to circumventing the traditional judicial rulemaking process, the legislation would severely limit the ability of victims who have suffered a legitimate harm to seek justice collectively in a class action lawsuit. The legislation mandates that no Federal court shall certify any proposed class seeking monetary relief for personal injury or economic loss unless the party affirmatively demonstrates that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named
class representative(s). This requirement leaves a severe burden for people who have suffered personal injury or economic loss at the hands of large institutions with vast resources, effectively barring them from forming class actions. For example, in a class action against the Veterans Administration,
several veterans sued for a variety of grievances centered on delayed claims. The requirement in this legislation that plaintiffs suffer the same type of injuries might have barred these litigants from forming a class because each plaintiff suffered harms that were not the same.
We were pleased that a manager's amendment offered in Committee removed the requirement that the alleged harm to the plaintiff involved bodily injury or property damage. This improved the bill, but the remaining requirement leaves too high a burden. Class actions have been an efficient means of resolving disputes. Many of the legitimate complaints about lawsuit abuses through class-action litigation have been addressed through the evolution of class-action standards by the courts themselves;
others are currently being considered by the Judicial Conference as part of the Rules Enabling Act process. Making it harder for victims to utilize class actions could add to the burden of our court system by forcing aggrieved parties to file suit in smaller groups, or individually.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide our input and urge you to keep these concerns in mind as you continue to debate class-action reform legislation. If the ABA can provide you or your staff with any additional information regarding the ABA's views, or if we can be of further assistance, please contact me or ABA Governmental Affairs Legislative Counsel, David Eppstein.
THOMAS M. SUSMAN.
Mr. FARENTHOLD. Madam Chair, one of the issues the FACT Act addresses is State court litigants' inability to obtain information from bankruptcy asbestos trusts. The FACT Act eliminates this problem by requiring minimal disclosures from asbestos trusts and allowing for access to additional information at the cost of the requesting party. It doesn't put a burden on the trusts.
The amendment not only removes the minimal disclosure requirements, but it would replace additional disclosure requirements on parties who request information from the asbestos trust.
Over the course of four separate hearings before the Judiciary Committee the issue highlighted was the lack of disclosure by the asbestos bankruptcy trust, not private party litigants. There has been no record of plaintiffs encountering difficulties in obtaining information necessary to sue these businesses. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. Go look at a plaintiff's attorney who specializes in asbestos litigation Web site and you see how they tout their access to information necessary
to sue these companies.
It is the parties, other than the plaintiffs, including other asbestos bankruptcy trusts, as well as State court judges, who have difficulty obtaining information from the asbestos bankruptcy trust system which has created an environment that is conducive to fraud and takes money out of those trusts that is needed for future victims. The FACT Act merely levels the playing field so all parties have access to the same information.
I urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Madam Chair, I vigorously disagree with my good friend from Texas (Mr. Farenthold) because it is very clear that the bill would tip the scales of justice in favor of asbestos defendants by giving defendants access to information about victim settlements with asbestos trusts while allowing the defendants to continue hiding information about their settlements.
My amendment asks for the defendants to give the same information. No matter how much my good friend tries to redirect and suggest that this bill does not do that, it does.
Might I also suggest that the other side offered the suggestion that there were groups like Save Our Veterans, The Cost of Freedom, Veterans Resource, that were representing the veterans community. Again, I would take issue with that representation. I insert into the Record a whole list that has been recounted by the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Johnson), my colleague.
January 7, 2015.
Re Veterans Service Organization oppose H.R. 1927 the ``Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act''
Hon. Paul Ryan,
Speaker of the House, House of Representatives,
Hon. KEVIN MCCARTHY,
Majority Leader, House of Representatives,
Hon. NANCY PELOSI,
Minority Leader, House of Representatives,
Hon. STENY HOYER,
Minority Whip, House of Representatives,
DEAR SPEAKER RYAN, LEADER MCCARTHY, LEADER PELOSI, AND WHIP HOYER: We, the undersigned Veterans Service Organizations oppose H.R. 1927 the ``Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act of 2015.'' We have continuously expressed our united opposition to this legislation via written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, House Leadership, in-person meetings and phone calls with members of Congress, and most recently, an op-ed many of our legislative
teams submitted to ``The Hill'', entitled ``Farenthold has his facts wrong: The FACT Act hurts Veterans''. It is extremely disappointing that even with our combined opposition H.R. 1927 stands poised to be voted on the House floor later this week.
Veterans across the country disproportionately make up those who are dying and afflicted with mesothelioma and other asbestos related illnesses and injuries. Although veterans represent only 8% of the nation's population, they comprise 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths.
When our veterans and their family members file claims with the asbestos bankruptcy trusts to receive compensation for harm caused by asbestos companies, they submit personal, highly sensitive information such as how and when they were exposed to the deadly product, sensitive health information, and more. H.R.1927 would require asbestos trusts to publish their sensitive information on a public database, and also include how much money they received for their claim as well as other private information.
Forcing our veterans to publicize their work histories, medical conditions, social security numbers, and information about their children and families is an offensive invasion of privacy to the men and women who have honorably served, and it does nothing to assure their adequate compensation or to prevent future asbestos exposures and deaths.
Additionally, H.R. 1927 helps asbestos companies add significant time and delay paying [Page: H199]
trust claims to our veterans and their families by putting burdensome and costly reporting requirements on trusts, including those that already exist. One must to ask what is the real motivation for this legislation brought forward by Representative Farenthold? Rather than pursuing legislation to make it easier and less burdensome for our veterans and their families
to get the compensation they so desperately need for medical bills and end of life care, trusts will have to spend time and resources complying with these additional and unnecessary requirements at the expense of our veterans.
H.R. 1927 is a bill that its supporters claim will help asbestos victims, but the reality is that this bill only helps companies and manufacturers who knowingly poisoned our honorable men and women who have made sacrifices for our country.
We urgently ask on behalf of our members across the nation that you oppose H.R. 1927.
Please contact Hershel Gober, National Legislative Director, Military Order of the Purple Heart at email@example.com with any questions.
Air Force Sergeants Association, Air Force Women's Officers Associated (AFWOA), American Veterans (AM VETS), Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), Commissioned Officers Association of the US Public Health Services, Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV), Marine Corns Reserve Association (MCRA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), National Association of Uniformed Services (NAUS), National Defense Council,
Naval Enlisted Reserve Association, The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA), United States Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, United States Army Warrant Officers Association, Vietnam Veterans Association (VVA).