High court hears dispute over class-action suits

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday questioned efforts by consumers’ lawyers to limit the amount of money sought in class-action lawsuits so they are heard in state courts rather than more business-friendly federal court.

The justices appeared receptive to an insurance company’s argument that lawyers artificially lower the amount of money at stake to keep the lawsuits in state courts, which often favor plaintiffs.

The Standard Fire Insurance Co. of Hartford, Conn., says the tactic drags out lawsuits and makes fighting them so expensive that companies would rather settle.

The case involves a 2005 federal law that allows defendants to transfer class actions involving more than $5 million to federal court.

The Supreme Court has in recent years backed limits on class actions, most notably in the 2011 decision that stopped a suit against Wal-Mart involving up to 1.6 million of its female employees who complained of sex discrimination.

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