Harvard Law Review to publish Wilf-Townsend article: Assembly-Line Plaintiffs

Daniel Wilf-Townsend of Chicago has written Assembly-Line Plaintiffs, Forthcoming in the Harvard Law Review. Here is the abstract:

Around the country, state courts are being flooded with the claims of massive repeat filers. These large corporate plaintiffs leverage economies of scale to bring tremendous quantities of low-value claims against largely unrepresented individual defendants. Using recently developed litigation-analytics tools, this article presents the first nationwide study of these “assembly-line plaintiffs,” examining millions of cases across hundreds of jurisdictions. It documents the pervasive nature of this litigation, finding that in many court systems just the top ten private filers account for between one fifth and one third of all civil litigation.

This pattern raises serious concerns. Drawing on existing empirical literature and a sample of 1,000 recent case dockets, the article describes how these cases turn state courts into near-automatic claims processors for large corporations, transferring assets from mostly absent defendants without significant scrutiny of the underlying claims. These defendants, moreover, are often particularly vulnerable low-income consumers or members of other marginalized groups. And although many concerns raised by this litigation overlap with those related to unrepresented litigants more broadly, the structural features of assembly-line litigation—its one-sidedness, high volume, and low claim value—present distinctive challenges. The article concludes by considering a few specific potential reforms designed to meet those challenges: assessing a surcharge on frequent filers as a form of congestion pricing; enabling common defenses to be asserted as affirmative causes of action to facilitate aggregation; and moving courts away from one-case-at-a-time adjudication toward a more investigative, administrative-agency-like model.

0 thoughts on “Harvard Law Review to publish Wilf-Townsend article: Assembly-Line Plaintiffs

  1. Edwin Bell says:

    This article is on point and amazingly accurate. Courts have been accepting claims filed by Esq’s who only file claims for these nefarious corporations that use questionable documents for debts that cannot be validated. One big factor that allows these claims to be filed by the thousands (1000s) on a daily basis in practically every state is the income or fees paid to the courts for each claim filed. The math doesn’t lie, most states have fees of at least one hundred and sixty five dollars ($165.00) plus the Esq. attorneys fee, usually twenty dollars ($20.00). Millions of cases are filed annually all across America. These same five corporations pay the bills at each Courthouse, but they’ve also created massive growth by expanding Court construction, adding Judges, chamber clerks, and court employees to process claims, writs, garnishments, and miscellaneous documents. Expanding the Courts based on what is essentially five nefarious corporations or potentially criminal syndicates is an oxymoron of what the Judiciary’s job is suppose to do. The Judiciary has been hijacked by greedy corporations using fraud or counterfeit documents to extort the most vulnerable people in our society. Where do we go from here?

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