A class action is a representative action wherein one or more plaintiffs named in the lawsuit complaint, along with their lawyers pursue a class action case for themselves and the defined class against one or more defendants. The claims of the "class representatives" must arise from facts or law common to the class members.
Here are some frequently asked questions about class actions, and important things you should know if you're thinking of joining one.
To bring a class action lawsuit as a plaintiff, the court to bring an action must certify the class. The court will consider the following before certification:
There are several requirements a court will consider when deciding on whether to certify a class of plaintiffs that want to bring a class action lawsuit. The following are the factors considered by most courts in a class action lawsuit to form a class of plaintiffs:
Initially, a person or group of people will bring a putative class action lawsuit against the defendant. The court will then decide whether or not to certify the lawsuit as a class action. If it does so, the original group will represent the entire class action group, and it will move forward as a class action lawsuit.
If they refuse to certify the class and allow the plaintiffs to bring a class action lawsuit against the defendants, they will often give their reason why. Typically it is because they do not think the class is complete, meaning that there could be more potential plaintiffs to join the class.
While class actions can apply to a variety of situation, these are some examples of the most common claims:
A single plaintiff can file a class action lawsuit 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.
Most class actions are filed to recover money or monetary damages committed by the named defendants. 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.
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.
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.
Depending on the lawsuit, class members may be entitled to a portion of the damages paid by the defendant. Since these lawsuits can involve a lot of people, the amount received may be negligible.
Class action members also commonly receive rebates, products, or services from the company. Attorney’s fees are usually taken from the damages award, rather than received up front.
Class action lawsuits are meant to protect those injured by large corporations or entities. There are benefits for plaintiffs and for the corporations they are suing. For the plaintiffs:
Corporations that are being sued in a class action lawsuit also benefit from class action lawsuits. The main benefit is that they can face one lawsuit instead of potentially thousands. This one lawsuit will also give them the opportunity to take time to collect evidence, negotiate a settlement, and address these issues with enough time instead of a rushed or hurried case.
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.
Class action lawsuits do not always succeed. If the court disagrees with why the suit is being brought, or thinks the defendant did not commit any wrongdoing, the case will be dismissed.
If it is dismissed, the individual group members may not be able to file new or individual lawsuits for the same reason in the future because the court already decided on the facts of the case and why a lawsuit cannot be brought under those facts.
Often, the court will allow the plaintiffs to re-examine their claim and alter it as necessary in order to fit the requirements to continue forward as a class action lawsuit.
Yes. Every person who is part of the lawsuit will receive a Notice of Settlement. The notice is sent by mail to all members of the class. The notice may also be advertised or published instead of being sent directly to the plaintiffs that were affected.
A settlement notice contains information on each plaintiff’s legal rights regarding the settlement. Also, plaintiffs may be required to respond by a specific deadline in order to claim their portion of the settlement.
The plaintiff does not need to join the class action and can opt out of the class action lawsuit if they chose to do so.
Class action lawsuits are very complex, and it is important to find an attorney who can help you determine your best course of action, as well as represent your best interests in court. If you or a group of people has been similarly harmed by one entity, then it will be in your best interest to contact a local class action lawyer.
Last Modified: 05-21-2018 08:23 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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