About ATRA’s Consumer Protection Laws Unhinged Project
ATRA’s Consumer Protection Laws Unhinged highlights the abuses and misuses of state consumer protection acts, and calls on policy makers and judges to restore sanity to the litigation. Far too often, we see that plaintiff lawyers are the primary beneficiaries of state consumer protection laws. While settlements provide consumers with no more than a few dollars, the lawyers who invent such cases get millions in fees. Such litigation results in needlessly higher prices, less consumer choice, and is a drain on the economy. Moreover, these lawyers bring massive class actions on behalf of individuals who experienced no financial loss or where reasonable consumers were not misled by the advertisement or practice at issue.
The laws’ vague prohibition of “unfair” or “deceptive” practices, allows plaintiffs’ lawyers to pursue ridiculous lawsuits, even for conduct that is already closely regulated by government agencies. Consumer protection laws provide for relaxed evidentiary standards, high damages, and recovery of attorneys fees and costs because they were intended to provide a remedy for fraud in day-to-day consumer purchases. Lawyers misuse these statutes as an alternative to personal injury, wrongful death, and other actions where the law already provides an appropriate remedy.
This website contains colorful examples to illustrate the extent to which CPA statutes are being abused by personal injury lawyers. For example, we found over the past two years, there has been a surge of consumer class action lawsuits, particularly in California courts, against food makers. In addition, we show that plaintiffs’ lawyers are bringing “economic loss” claims in order to avoid the need to find an injured client or prove a product is defective.
Some courts have inappropriately allowed plaintiffs’ lawyers to use state consumer protection laws to create a way to bring private lawsuits under state laws for which the legislature provided only for government enforcement. And just as problematic, some advocacy groups are using consumer protection laws to achieve political goals that they cannot achieve through the legitimate legislative process.
ATRA is the only national organization exclusively dedicated to repairing our civil justice system. ATRA fights in Congress, in state legislatures, and in the courts to make the system fairer. We identify and champion elected officials and judges who want to fix the system. In the media, we serve as the national voice of the civil justice reform movement.
Today, America’s $246 billion civil justice system is the most expensive in the industrialized world. Aggressive personal injury lawyers target certain professions, industries, and individual companies as profit centers. They systematically recruit clients who may never have suffered a real illness or injury and use scare tactics, combined with the promise of awards, to bring these people into massive class action suits. They effectively tap the media to rally sentiment for multi-million-dollar punitive damage awards. This leads many companies to settle questionable lawsuits just to stay out of court. These lawsuits are bad for business; they are also bad for society. They compromise access to affordable health care, punish consumers by raising the cost of goods and services, chill innovation, and undermine the notion of personal responsibility.
The personal injury lawyers who benefit from the status quo use their fees to perpetuate the cycle of lawsuit abuse. They have reinvested millions of dollars into the political process and in more litigation that acts as a drag on our economy. Some have compared the political and judicial influence of the personal injury bar to a fourth branch of government.
ATRA works to counter that influence by challenging this status quo and continually leading the fight for common-sense reforms in the states, the Congress, and the court of public opinion. For more about ATRA, visit our website at www.atra.org.