TRENTON – The Assembly Judiciary Committee released bill A894, which would permit litigants contesting a class-action lawsuit to immediately appeal that ruling to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
Known as interlocutory appeals, they are appeals made of a case before the trial has even concluded.
Under the existing system, litigants who wish to challenge a class-action lawsuit must either request leave to file an interlocutory appeal or litigate the matter to a final judgment.
If a motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal is not granted, the litigant is generally left with a choice between incurring the expense of litigating the matter to a final judgment or settling the case without the benefit of a judicial ruling, the bill states.
Several business and corporate groups supported the bill.
However, groups representing individuals, private citizens and consumers groups, were opposed to the bill, saying it would delay decisions and justice and discourage disenfranchised groups from joining lawsuits in the future.
Consumers for Civil Justice called the bill “horrible.”
Assembly members Democrats Valerie Varneri-Huttle, Connie Wagner and Gordon Johnson said they all have concerns with the bill, but voted to release the bill nonetheless.
Assemblyman Peter Barnes, (D-18), of Edision, described the bill as fair and valid, saying there have been many class-action cases that have been more about lawyers getting rich than about helping customers.
“Law firms have searchers finding aggrieved consumers,” said Barnes.
Barnes himself was part of a class-action lawsuit involving Blockbuster, and received a paltry $19 rebate card after years of the case being stuck in court.
But the New Jersey Association for Justice said the bill “will stop justice in its tracks.”
“It delays holding accountable those who are being sued,” the group said.
Similarly, the National Employment Lawyers Association said the bill would delay justice.
Several corporations and groups, many represented by Dale Florio, Delta Dental and New Jersey Restaurant Association, supported the bill.
The ACLU strongly opposed the bill.
The bill sponsors are Assembly members John Winsneiwski, (D-19), Sayreville, and Assemblyman Gary Chiusano, (R-24), Sparta.