What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
Class actions lawsuits are large scale cases in which a group of individuals allege that similar injuries or damages were caused by the same product or action. Rather than each person bringing his or her own lawsuit, the individuals, as one group, bring a lawsuit against a defendant or group of defendants.
In a class action lawsuit, each individual’s claim is essentially the same; all claims proceed as a group claim against the defendant(s). Specifically, a class action lawsuit involves one or several people who are bringing a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group of individuals. This larger group is known as “the class.”
Although the subject matter of the class action may differ, there are two factors that are typically always present in every class action lawsuit: That the matters in dispute are common to all class members and that the individuals affected are sufficiently numerous to make it impracticable to bring them all before the court. Depending on the type of class action being brought, resolution of the lawsuit binds all members of the class that are certified by the court.
At Parker Waichman, many of our cases began due to complaints by one or a few individuals. The firm has a long history of successfully fighting complex litigation for their clients, including class action lawsuits. If you or someone you know has been injured or suffered losses that may be brought as a class action lawsuit, the firm offers legal consultations to individuals, business, and entities with questions about filing a lawsuit.
Why Choose A Class Action Lawsuit?
Class action lawsuits are meant to advance a number of critical public policy goals. A class action is used as a means in which individuals can receive justice for injustices committed by powerful, multi-million dollar corporations and institutions. According to former United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, “The class action is one of the few legal remedies the small claimant has against those who command the status quo.”
In some situations, each person within a large group may have individually suffered limited damages and the cost of individual lawsuits may be greater than the value of each claim. Total damages to the class might be very large, which would give the wrongdoer the incentive to cease its fraudulent conduct. In a situation in which the defendant has engaged in a pattern of wrongdoing, a class action may provide an effective remedy for the group without costing the sometimes prohibitive cost of separate lawsuits.
This may also minimize risking inconsistent decisions by the courts. Individuals seeking to make a claim may be hoping for justice; however, many individuals feel that bringing a single lawsuit may not be the most practical method or that, although losses were experienced, they are limited.
Class Action Certification Requirements
To be involved in a class action lawsuit, various certification requirements must be met and the court must be certify the class. Depending on subject matter, federal or state law may govern how a class action may be handled.
Federal procedures differ from various states’ rules; however, many states follow what has been set out in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), which roughly indicate:
- A sufficient number of potential claimants must be involved so that making the joining of those claimants as named plaintiffs in one, traditional lawsuit impracticable.
- There must be common questions of law or fact shared by all claims to ensure that all of the claims are based on the same alleged error or wrongdoing.
- The claims alleged by the named plaintiffs (class representatives) must be the same as the others in the class; any arguments that may be raised by the defendant would be the same or similar.
- Class representatives will provide fair and adequate protection for the class. It is at this point that the lawyers representing the class will be scrutinized, specifically concerning fee agreements.
Once a class action lawsuit has been certified, the potential class members are notified of the class action lawsuit and their right to opt out of the class. When a plaintiff chooses to opt out of the class which means that he or she will not receive any of any agreed-upon settlement and will not be tied to any resolution of the class action, including if the case was dismissed. The plaintiff may still file his/her own lawsuit against the defendant.
The court must approve any agreed-upon settlement by the class representatives, class counsel, and the defendant, should settlement discussions commence. Class members must be notified that a settlement has been reached via a compliant notice that must contain information that a settlement has been reached, the details of the settlement, and the class members’ right to object to the proposed settlement.
Parker Waichman has decades of experience successfully handling class action lawsuits and individual lawsuits. Our experienced attorneys will help you determine the best way in which to handle your potential case.
Types of Class Action Lawsuits
Class actions are typically brought for various reasons that may involve a large number of individuals such as employee-related claims, including discrimination and wage and hour law disputes; unfair or fraudulent business practices tied to services; or defective or dangerous products, including consumer products and vehicles.
Some other examples of class actions include claims made by:
- Consumers who purchased the same defective product or who were mislead by the same false advertising or manipulative business practices.
- Employees who have been subjected to a pattern or practice of racial, age, or gender discrimination by their corporate employer.
- Home or business owners affected by an environmental disaster.
- Individuals whose sensitive, private communications were recorded by a corporation without the individuals knowledge or authorization.
- Investors who lost their savings over securities fraud committed by senior executives of a publicly traded company.
- Patients who were prescribed a prescription drug that has dangerous side effects that the drug maker was aware of and failed to disclose.
- Small business owners and consumers who paid a high price for a product after a group of corporations conspired to fix prices.
Filing a Class Action
If you or someone you know was injured due to negligence, contact one of our personal injury attorneys today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, please call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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