cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The Wal-Mart class action lawsuit finding reminded me of just how often these suits are aimed at lining the pockets of the lawyers versus addressing the supposed grievances of the members of the class action group.
I have been the recipient of several class action notices over the past few years. One had to do with a big bad company that had taken me for the chump I appeared to be when I bought an appliance. I think another had to do with a battery company and another had to do with a financial services company. I presume this relatively recent spike in numbers of such cases relates to the fact that the lawyers who make their large livings in this area of the law were much more active in filing cases since their art form had been perfected. In each instance I was notified that I was the member of a class for such and such a perceived grievance and that I had to do nothing in order to reap the benefits. All I had to do was wait for the gold to rain down on me.
The benefits I have reaped were so paltry as to make me wonder what the whole case had been about in the first place. Often it seems I get a coupon for a discount on future purchases or a check for a buck or two. But then, I came to my senses and realized that these suits are virtually always about the lawyers who bring the action and very seldom really about the supposed grievance being tried. These are ‘cash cows’ for the firm making the argument and they’re only too happy to invest ‘X’ in order for the shot at reaping ‘XXXXXXXXXXXX’ or more in return as their fee before we who were aggrieved got any of the crumbs left over.
In the Wal-Mart case, I suspect the lawyers worked and worked and worked until they found an excuse to go after what are probably about the deepest pockets ever to be brought into such an action. Can you imagine the delight of this particular firm when it realized it had found the ‘holy grail’ of legal actions? They were probably thinking of their bank accounts and of just high the regard they’d receive from the other hundred or so firms that make their multi-millions in the same manner. This was “Hall of Fame’ level stuff.
These law firms also know where to file such cases in order to find the sympathetic courts and judicial systems. This one made it all the way to the Supreme Court only because Wal-Mart decided that enough was enough.
The U.S. Supreme Court rightfully booted this case out since it would have been impossible to determine the suffering of every female who had worked for Wal-Mart in the preceding ten years. There may be some discrimination within the Wal-Mart structure and that should be rooted out on a case-by-case basis where there may be one store involved or one district of stores involved. To assume that there was such a widespread violation willfully propagated at the corporate level to apply to all female employees nationally is a real stretch.
The old phrase ”there ought to be a law” comes to mind, and that law ought to hit frivolous use of these actions so hard that the firms who live on this ‘crap’ are forced to think long and hard before engaging in the action. Maybe then we’d only see those cases that were really warranted. The argument that ‘we don’t know what is frivolous until the case is brought’ doesn’t hold a lot of water for me. Texas has the right idea: if the case isn’t won by plaintiffs, then plaintiffs pay the entire cost (and they ought to be fined a percentage of what they were claiming in their filing which would go to the defendant). If you file and lose, you pay.
The idea of frivolous lawsuits is bad enough. The idea of these mega class action suits being brought on frivolous grounds ought to be sufficient for disbarment or, at least, a period of being unable to practice.
While we’re about fixing the system, all frivolous actions whether brought privately or by government lawyers need to be included so that the Elliot Spitzers and the DNRs of the world do not skate free and clear after they’ve ruined an organization or individuals.