You may hear about them in the news. A class action may be filed, settled or a verdict has been decided and because so many are impacted, or the defendant so well known, the lawsuit has gotten public attention. Most class action lawsuits don't get media attention but that doesn't mean that they're not potentially very powerful tools for people and businesses who have been harmed by a defendant.
A class action lawsuit is one involving many possible plaintiffs who belong in a class. The legal claim can be based on anything from a defective product that causes harm, a drug that's ineffective or dangerous, an employer who discriminates against a class of people, harm done by a government agency or financial losses due to personal information being hacked from a company's computer system.
The named plaintiff or plaintiffs stand for all those facing a similar situation and who are trying to right a wrong. Under the federal rules of civil procedure such a plaintiff or plaintiffs may sue as representative parties on behalf of all members of the class if,
● The class is so large that including them all in the lawsuit is impractical,
● There are questions of law or fact common to the class of those affected,
● The legal claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and
● The representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
Class action lawsuits are high stakes legal cases. Often defendants argue that a case doesn't qualify for class action status and that each person allegedly harmed should have to litigate their own case. Often these cases involve relatively low amounts of damages so it's only feasible for plaintiffs to sue as a group. A defendant may hope to make it so difficult and expensive individuals will decide to give up.
There are also benefits to both sides in class action cases,
● It may be less expensive to litigate a class action case than litigating hundreds or thousands of individual cases.
● Plaintiffs as a group have more negotiating leverage as a class compared to an individual seeking a settlement.
● Defendants after the class action have some certainty, whether they won or lost. Normally businesses dislike uncertainty because they can't plan for it. With individual trials there's the uncertainty of having some cases going the plaintiff's way with high damage awards.
● A global settlement of all claims can allow a defendant to put an issue behind it and move on.
If you've been injured or suffered a financial loss unfairly and think you may be one of many going through the same thing because of the same wrong-doer, contact our office so we can talk about your situation, your legal rights and whether a class action case might be appropriate.