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Survey finds Americans unsure about the benefits of class action lawsuits

A survey shows that most consumers favor class action lawsuits, but are skeptical of the effects of large monetary awards to plaintiffs, including their effect on the cost of insurance and on the number of uninsured people. The study was released Jan. 31, 2001, by a group opposing class action liability lawsuits against insurers, manufacturers, and tobacco companies.

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Class action lawsuits are legal actions filed by an individual or a small group on behalf of a larger group who share an interest in an alleged wrongdoing by a corporation.

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) surveyed 601 Connecticut registered voters about their attitudes toward class action lawsuits, including the issues of attorney contingency fees, the number of such lawsuits brought against corporations, and the large punitive damage awards made in some class action lawsuits.

Among the findings:

  • 61 percent of voters favor class action lawsuits, while 26 percent oppose them.
  • 50percent believe there are too many class action lawsuits today.
  • 64 percent agree that class action lawsuits against health insurance providers raise the price of health insurance. Fewer people — 49 percent — agreed that class action lawsuits against car manufacturers raise the price of cars, and 55 percent agree that lawsuits against gun manufacturers raise the price of guns.
  • 56 percent believe that class action lawsuits against health insurance companies can lead to more uninsured Americans. Fifty-three percent believe they would be able to keep their current health insurance if the cost of health care were to increase.
  • 66 percent believe class action lawsuits benefit lawyers more than plaintiffs; 25 percent believe that plaintiffs benefit more than lawyers.
  • 68 percent agree that class action lawsuits lead to improved quality of goods and services. People with lower household incomes were more likely to agree with this statement.

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