Is Congress acting to protect Volkswagen?

I’m sure you’ve heard about Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, where the automaker intentionally installed “defeat devices” in millions of cars around the world to cheat auto emissions regulations. Consumers who thought they were buying “clean diesel” TDI engines were in fact polluting up to 40x above national standards, harming human health and the environment.

Such egregious corporate abuses are inexcusable, and VW car owners deserve redress for the company’s deceitful practices. But legislation just passed the U.S. House of Representatives that would make it harder – even impossible – for VW owners to join a class action lawsuit against the company.

It’s called the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, and it’s anything but fair. It would require potential litigants to demonstrate that they suffer the same “scope and type” of injury as each other. That means that VW owners who drove fewer miles, a different model of car, or even in different weather conditions would not be able to join the class action lawsuit.

The impact of this legislation will go farther than just the VW lawsuit – it would effectively gut class action lawsuits all over the country. Imagine telling a person with a broken leg that they are not able to join a class action lawsuit because the class representative broke their arm.

Class action lawsuits are a key protection for consumers because average citizens don’t always have the time, energy, and resources to take on a multinational corporation by themselves. By joining together, litigants can more effectively seek redress for all those injured. There are already strict threshold standards for class action litigants to meet. This bill would not make class act representation more “fair” – it would drastically reduce the number of people able to join these suits, and further burden our judicial system by forcing them to file separate suits.

Rep. Peter Welch voted against this flawed bill in the House, and now we look to Senators Leahy and Sanders to stand up for American consumers as it moves forward in the Senate.