A class action is a type of lawsuit that may be filed on behalf of a large number of individuals who have the same grievances as others against a specific party. A single claimant or several claimants will then be chosen to represent that group of individuals in the lawsuit. These persons are known respectively as the named class representative or the class.
A class action lawsuit may arise when there are hundreds of the same claim for which it would be more efficient for the court and those involved to have them combined into one case. Oftentimes, the basis of a class action lawsuit is related to a claim for products liability in which many people were hurt due to a defective product.
In addition, there are class action lawsuits for both plaintiffs and defendants. However, since defendant class action lawsuits are extremely rare, this article will solely focus on class action lawsuits for plaintiffs. To learn more about the difference between the two or how to initiate one, you should speak to a qualified class action lawyer in your area as soon as possible.
What are The Requirements of a Class Action?
As previously mentioned, an individual who files a class action lawsuit is known as either the named class representative or the lead plaintiff. This person is in charge of retaining counsel to represent the class, paying the costs of legal fees, and appearing in court throughout all legal proceedings related to the case.
In addition, the class must be certified and approved by the court. A class will typically be certified as one of three categories; all of which have complex prerequisites and require the expertise of a legal professional. Some other general requirements may need to be met before a class action can proceed include the following:
- Commonality: There must be a question of fact or law that is shared among those who make up the class. In other words, all class members must have suffered the same injury or sustained injuries from the same product.
- Typicality: The named class representative or lead plaintiff must have the same or similar litigation interests in common with all members of the class.
- Numerosity: There must be a large number of injured persons who have a claim against the product designer or manufacturer. In a typical case, there usually must be over thirty members before the group can even be considered to be certified as a class. While there are no rules that state a specified number of persons, it is generally a number that would make it unrealistic to name them as plaintiffs in a lawsuit.
- Adequate representation: Finally, those representing the class members must have the resources to hire adequate legal representation in order to initiate and proceed with a class action lawsuit.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Class Action Lawsuits
As with most legal actions, there are both advantages and disadvantages to initiating or joining a class action lawsuit. Some advantages to bringing a class action lawsuit may include the following:
- Having more time to file a claim since the statute of limitations for class action lawsuits is typically longer than the time limits prescribed for private lawsuits;
- Allowing consumers who do not have enough time, money, and/or other resources to have their day in court and possibly recover damages;
- Increasing the chances that a large corporation will settle or at least result in some type of legal remedy (e.g., harming a company’s reputation for engaging in unlawful conduct);
- Helping the legal system and court dockets to become more efficient overall by combining hundreds of legal claims in one lawsuit; and/or
- Making it harder for better positioned parties to drag out a legal action or to settle a case quietly and continue participating in harmful activities.
On the other hand, there are also several disadvantages to bringing a class action lawsuit. These may include:
- Recovering monetary damages that may only constitute a small portion of an entire damages award since it will need to be split among the class action members to the suit;
- Being prevented or prohibited from litigating the issue as part of a private action and receiving a separate and possibly larger monetary damages award;
- Having to wait for a longer period of time to resolve or settle the legal issue in question;
- Being restricted to certain kinds of damages (e.g., economic damages) or legal remedies (e.g., product recalls);
- Having to use a third or more of the final damages award to pay for legal costs; and/or
- Losing the right to make decisions over how a case should be handled (unless of course a consumer is considered to be the named class representative).
Should I Proceed with a Class Action?
It may be worth proceeding with a class action lawsuit when a consumer has a small claim against a larger corporation and does not have the time or funds to bring a legal action on their own. A class action lawsuit allows the consumer to present their claim with minor risks and the potential to recover an amount of damages that may have been less than what they would have spent on legal bills in a private lawsuit.
A class action lawsuit may also be useful for when a consumer wants the general public to know that a particular cause, company, product, or so forth is possibly unlawful and harmful to others. Thus, in some cases, a class action lawsuit can be used as a vehicle for punishment since the case will likely give an entity a bad reputation based on their wrongful conduct.
In some instances, a consumer may not have a choice, but to join a class action lawsuit. This type of situation can occur when a consumer only had a certain amount of time to opt out of the class action lawsuit and they failed to do so before that time lapsed. In this case, they will have no choice except to be included as part of the class action.
Therefore, it is very important that a consumer know what type of class action lawsuit is being presented and also what the requirements are to opt in or opt out of that particular lawsuit. Otherwise, if a consumer fails to opt out on time, the consumer will be prohibited from filing a private action against a company on their own.
As such, it may be in a consumer’s best interest to consult a class action attorney for further legal advice on whether they should proceed with a class action lawsuit or not.
Should I Consult an Attorney?
There are a number of important benefits you can gain from hiring a local attorney who specializes in initiating class action lawsuits involving consumer products. An experienced class action attorney will be able to review the facts of your claim and can determine if filing your claim as a class action lawsuit would provide more advantages than disadvantages.
Alternatively, if a class action has already been started, your lawyer can assist you in joining that class action as well. Your attorney can also advise you on different options you can pursue if they feel a class action lawsuit is not an appropriate way to resolve your issue, such as by attending mediation and negotiation sessions or filing a private lawsuit in civil court.
In addition, your lawyer can help you file the necessary paperwork for either initiating a class action or bringing a private lawsuit for a products liability claim. Your lawyer will also be able to explain how the laws in your area may affect the outcome of your case and can discuss the potential damages you can receive under such laws if you win your case.
Lastly, should you need help with understanding the requirements for a class action, your lawyer can provide valuable advice about this topic as well.