In a blistering opinion that will surely become the newest rallying cry for tort-reform advocates, last week the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s class certification and approval of a class action settlement involving Subway.

Plaintiff’s attorneys filed suit across the country against Subway alleging that Subway’s footlong subs are not always 12 inches long. The litigation was consolidated in the Eastern District of Wisconsin where a class was certified to seek injunctive relief against Subway.

The attorneys and Subway settled the case for $500 to each of ten class representatives, $520,000 to the attorneys, and an agreement by Subway to implement measures to ensure that their footlong subs will measure at least 12 inches while still acknowledging that, due to variations in the baking process, the subs won’t always be 12 inches long.

A class representative and “professional objector” who has filed appeals in at least one other class action lawsuit appealed the approval and settlement to the 7th circuit.

Zero Plus Zero Equals Zero

According to the 7th Circuit’s opinion, the limited discovery conducted in the case demonstrated that most footlong subs were, in fact, at least 12 inches long. Because the stores use the same amount of dough for each sandwich, uniform amounts of meat and cheese, and the customer can choose the toppings that they want, a customer who receives a sandwich that is not quite 12 inches loses nothing.

The plaintiffs never suffered any damages, and Subway’s agreement to implement procedures to ensure the footlongs are 12 inches is meaningless because the settlement still acknowledges that, “due to natural variations in the baking process, the size and shape of bread may vary.”

Because the settlement yields class fees for counsel and ‘zero benefits for the class,’ the class should not have been certified and the settlement should not have been approved… Because these consolidated class actions ‘seek only worthless benefits for the class,’ they should have been ‘dismissed out of hand.’

What is the Purpose of Lawsuits?

If the facts as recited in the 7th Circuit opinion are true, this was a ridiculous lawsuit. Tort law is not about figuring out ways to take money from corporations. Plaintiff’s lawyers are not the modern-day Robin Hood.

Tort law is about providing a vehicle for injured persons to recover from corporations or individuals for injuries that are caused by the corporations or individuals. It allows the courts to order a corporation to pay for the damage that was caused by their negligence. It allows David to make a stand and demand justice from Goliath, something that would not be possible without the court’s intervention.

Tort law is about forcing corporations or government to do the right thing through injunctive relief. When a corporation values profits over safety, ordinary people have no way to force corporations to change their practices other than through the courts.

Class action lawsuits are necessary and are sometimes the only tool available to ensure that corporations do not hurt ordinary people in the interest of making profits. For example, drug manufacturers, cigarette companies, and auto manufacturers have all been forced to make their products safer because of class action litigation against them.

Do We Need Tort Reform?

Our tort system is designed to weed out frivolous lawsuits and prevent them from going forward. Although the Subway case is the exception and not the rule, tort reform advocates will spin it as if all lawsuits are like this one and it is an epidemic. This hurts everyone.

The truth that the Chambers of Commerce do not want you to know is that frivolous lawsuits are a rare unicorn. When they are filed, they are usually disposed of with a motion to dismiss and the court can sanction any attorney that files a truly frivolous lawsuit.

Pointing to cases like this, state legislatures will pass more laws that limit when plaintiffs can sue and what plaintiffs can recover in lawsuits. These laws limit the damages in legitimate lawsuits where corporations, doctors, insurance companies, and others cause real damage to real people. The Chambers of Commerce, insurance lobby, and other big business interests are at war with the people of our country. They are waging a war for money – the ability to hurt people and not be forced to compensate them.

Are You Looking for an Honest Attorney in Myrtle Beach, S.C.?

At Coastal Law, LLC, our personal injury attorneys represent real people in the Myrtle Beach, Conway, Charleston, and Columbia areas who have suffered real injuries and who deserve to be compensated. We do not file “frivolous” lawsuits.

When you meet with us about your case, we will give you our honest opinion about whether you have a valid claim and whether you should or should not file suit. When you have a valid claim, we will pursue all remedies that are available to you. Schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case by calling (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.

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