Class Actions an Avenue for Redress of Consumer Rights

Class action lawsuits were designed to give individuals leverage against large corporate defendants. A large company with billions of dollars and a team of lawyers at their disposal stands a much better chance of winning a lawsuit than a single employee or consumer with a claim that’s only worth a small amount of money.

Big businesses have long lamented this attempt to level the playing field, complaining that class actions exist for the sole purpose of allowing plaintiffs to come together to pick on large companies. Although defendants choose to settle class actions, rather than risk the time and expense of litigating them, it is possible for large corporations to get a fair hearing in court.

One recent consumer class action lawsuit that proved this, was filed by a consumer who was charged for the costs associated with sending him a bill.

The plaintiff, Justin Nolte, filed a class action lawsuit against Cedars Sinai Medical Center for allegedly charging him $167 just so they could get him in their system. After an insurance adjustment, the charge went down to $78.

Nolte allegedly never went to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, but the hospital handled billing for a doctor Nolte saw in Beverly Hills. The charge was allegedly meant to cover the hospital’s costs of putting Nolte in their system so they could send him the bill for his doctor’s visit.

But they didn’t even allegedly say that on the receipt. Instead, the charge was allegedly merely labeled “New Patient, Level 2”. It wasn’t until Nolte took the hospital to court that they allegedly explained the charge was intended for services that do not involve a physician’s direct care. In this case, it referred to setting up his file and getting him in the hospital’s system.

Far from being unfair to the large defendant, both the trial court and the appellate court ruled in favor of Cedars Sinai. As both courts pointed out, Nolte signed a form, indicating his agreement with Cedars’ terms and conditions, including all “regular rates and terms” of the medical center.

Nolte’s attorneys are appealing the decision and have petitioned the California Supreme Court to hear the case. We can’t say what the Supreme Court will decide, but the decisions of the two lower courts make it clear that it is possible for big businesses to get a fair hearing regarding a relatively minor grievance filed by an unhappy consumer.

Despite this evidence, the House Judiciary Committee recently approved a new bill that would make it more difficult for plaintiffs to file class action lawsuits. The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act (also known as HR 1927) is currently making its way through the House of Representatives. If passed, all members of a class action lawsuit would be required to have experienced “the same type and scope” of harm as the named plaintiff.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest business group, supports the bill, but critics argue it would “eviscerate” the class action system, leaving no recourse for many plaintiffs with small claims.

Our Chicago Ridge, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totalling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocatesthe National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.

Our Wheeling and Hanover Park consumer attorneys provide assistance in fair debt collection, consumer fraud and consumer rights cases including in Illinois and throughout the country. You can click here to see a description of the some of the many individual and class-action consumer cases our Chicago consumer lawyers have handled. A video of our lawsuit which helped ensure more fan friendly security at Wrigley Field can be found here. You can contact one of our Aurora consumer protection attorneys who can assist in consumer fraud, consumer rip-off, lemon law, unfair debt collection, predatory lending, wage claims, unpaid overtime and other consumer, or consumer class action cases by filling out the contact form at the side of this blog or by clicking here.  You can also call our toll free number at 630-333-0333.

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