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Uses and Abuses of Class Actions

Tuesday June 2001


Professor Richard Epstein Interim Dean, University of Chicago Law School

Class actions are an important procedural device for the amalgamation of individual claims. Used properly, they ensure access to the courts by individuals who would otherwise be denied redress for ordinary grievances. Used incorrectly, class actions become a club that allow ambitious lawyers to hold the threat of huge damage actions over the head of defendants who fear that they have no choice but to submit, no matter how egregious the claim. The obvious task is to find ways to distinguish the useful from the improper use of class actions, and to develop procedural and substantive safeguards that block their improper extension. Professor Richard Epstein has extensive experience in class actions and mass torts, and will comment on class actions with special reference to their use in such matters as health care, tobacco and asbestos litigation.