by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Conservatives’ criticism of class-action lawsuits largely rests on two interrelated points.
First, they argue that consumers benefit little from class-action lawsuits, while plaintiffs’ lawyers reap millions of dollars. Most of us have received class-settlement notices in the mail informing us that we are eligible to receive a few dollars or perhaps a coupon based on our past purchase — and most of us promptly throw away such notices. …
… Second, conservatives argue that many companies settle meritless class-action lawsuits because of the specter of a staggering class-action judgment. Companies calculate that it’s better to settle even a frivolous lawsuit for a seven-figure sum than to risk an eight- or nine-figure judgment based on the unpredictable whims of a jury, according to this criticism.
These critiques of class-action lawsuits amount to a shibboleth among conservatives and big businesses. But don’t count Brian T. Fitzpatrick, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School, among them. …
… In his new thought-provoking book, The Conservative Case for Class Actions, he argues that conservatives — as opposed to big business — should not reflexively oppose class-action lawsuits, because they are in fact a market-oriented solution to remedy real wrongs committed by businesses. It is a clever, contrarian, and counterintuitive take on class actions that should open the eyes of both conservatives and liberals.