Public Citizen Report: No-Injury Class Action Is a Myth

Corporations are pushing a new line of attack on class-action lawsuits in an effort to block consumers from banning together to seek redress for unlawful corporate conduct.


The latest tactic is to dub a range of cases brought by consumers seeking compensation for wrongdoing as “no-injury class actions.”

But the “no-injury” class action is a myth.

That’s according to a report — The Fiction of the ‘No-Injury’ Class Action — released by Public Citizen.

“Corporations have crafted yet another new theory to try to escape compensating people they have deceived or ripped off,” said Public Citizen President Rob Weissman. “The invention of the ‘no injury’ moniker doesn’t make the real economic damages inflicted on consumers disappear.”

Corporations and their lawyers are pushing the idea that consumers who were duped by misrepresentations into buying products or overpaying for products have suffered “no injury.”

The report examines that claim, testing its validity as a matter of fact and law.

The report finds that, in the cases highlighted in recent testimony by corporate counsel, the consumers experienced real injuries, and the same kinds of injuries that the law has traditionally allowed people to go to court to redress – not only in consumer cases, but also in other areas of the law.

Weissman said that class-action lawsuits are powerful tools for combating corporate wrongdoing because they enable individuals to pursue claims collectively that are too small to address person by person.

Often, class actions are the only practical way for individuals to obtain relief against a corporate lawbreaker with huge resources available to defend against lawsuits, he said.

As a result, class actions have become lightning rods for corporate interests that seek to insulate themselves against liability.

The report specifically analyzes the argument made by attorney John Beisner, on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, when he testified on April 29 before a U.S. House committee. In his testimony, he advocated legislation to prevent “overbroad” or “no-injury” class actions.

Reviewing each of the class-action lawsuits Beisner referenced, Public Citizen found that the cases involved real injuries suffered by consumers who bought defective products or made purchases because of misrepresentations.

These injuries included the need to repair or replace products to avoid serious injury, as well as economic losses suffered when consumers paid for defective products that were not worth the premium prices charged, purchased worthless products that were not what manufacturers represented them to be, or paid extra for products based on misrepresentations about their nature or quality.

For example, consumers duped into purchasing worthless cold remedies have suffered an obvious injury, but Beisner’s testimony called their lawsuit a “no-injury” class action.

“Public policy should not be based on mythology,” said Scott L. Nelson, an attorney at Public Citizen and one of the authors of the report. “The fiction that the courts have opened their doors to ‘no-injury class actions’ must not go unchallenged, lest it lead policymakers to close the courts to lawsuits that seek remedies for real harms suffered by real people.”

The report concludes that the misleading “no injury” theory poses a danger to other areas of law in addition to consumer cases, as it could impair the effectiveness of the class action as a means for resolving common claims based on unlawful conduct affecting large numbers of people.

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