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Class Actions-FAQ

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What Is a Class Action?

A class action is a lawsuit filed in civil court where one or more selected representatives, called "class representatives", sue on behalf of a class of people. 

Can I Initiate a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit can be filed by a single plaintiff as a putative class action. However, a significant number of people must be potential members of the class. There must be so many potential plaintiffs that it is impractical for each person to bring their claim individually. There must also be facts or questions of law that are common to all class members. The claims of the chosen class representatives must also be typical of those people who are members of the proposed class. Lastly, the class representatives must be able to fairly and properly represent the class.

What Types of Class Actions Can Be Filed?

Most class actions are filed to recover money. Class actions may also be filed to resolve monetary disputes over a "limited fund", where the money available is inadequate to fully compensate all class members.

Can I Be Bound by a Settlement or Judgment of a Class Action?

Yes. All absent class members are usually bound by the judgment or settlement of a case. However, if the goal of the lawsuit is to recover money, absent class members are generally entitled to notice of the lawsuit and an opportunity to "opt out" from the proceedings. If a person opts out, they are not bound by any judgment or settlement of the class action. If a person opts out, he or she may be free to bring a claim for damages on their own. 

How Do I Join a Class Action?

Generally, before a court certifies a class action, it must first conclude that there are too many class members for them all to be named as parties in the lawsuit. Technically, class member do not join in the litigation, but rather decide not to participate by opting out.  Usually, the notice issued to potential class members of the lawsuit will tell the members whether they need to take any action to participate. 

If I Have a Claim, Should I File My Own Lawsuit?

The answer to this question depends on the type of lawsuit you are considering and your own individual circumstances. In a typical class action the lawsuit seeks recovery for a large group of people, but the individual damages may be small. If your damages are relatively small, the cost of litigation would make it impractical to file a suit on your own. However, if you feel that you have substantial damages and a serious claim, you should consult a lawyer about whether to opt out of the class and file your own lawsuit.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 10-14-2015 02:01 PM PDT

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