Putative Class Action

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 What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit, also called a representative action or class suit, is a type of lawsuit commonly filed in the United States. This type of lawsuit arises when there is a certain number of plaintiffs that sue one or more defendants on behalf of a:

  • Class;
  • Group;
  • Absent party.

Class action lawsuits were created in order to protect the rights of many individuals who have been harmed or damaged, typically by a corporation or a company. Class action lawsuits can also bring widespread awareness and publicity to underlying issues in a given case.

Class action cases are complex legal cases that follow a slightly different path in the legal system than other types of lawsuits. Class action lawsuits involve multiple plaintiffs with the same or substantially similar injuries that are caused by the same defendant or defendants. These multiple plaintiffs are joined together in one single lawsuit and are grouped into classes based upon their injuries.

The court then treats a class as one single plaintiff. This means the outcome of that case will apply to each of the plaintiffs who joined the class.

Although the standards governing these types of lawsuits may vary by state, they are generally used to address allegations that involve a large group of individuals.

What Is a Putative Class Action?

When a lawsuit begins, the lawyer may not know whether the lawsuit is a class action. In these types of cases, the lawyer may file a putative class action suit.

If a lawyer is filing a class action lawsuit, they may not be aware of all of the plaintiffs or potential plaintiffs before filing their initial complaint with the court. This is because other individuals who experienced the same injury may not have filed a lawsuit. In these types of cases, the lawyer will file a putative class action.

Putative means claimed to be or believed. A putative class action is then filed on behalf of all of the unknown plaintiffs by the initial plaintiff. Typically, the initial plaintiff will request to be the representative of the putative class members and to represent the interests of all of the plaintiffs, both known and unknown, at the time the lawsuit is filed.

At this point in the lawsuit, it is not yet considered to be a class action.

What Are Some Common Types of Class Action Lawsuits?

Examples of class action lawsuits that are commonly filed include cases involving:

  • Tobacco;
  • Defective products;
  • Mesothelioma.

Tobacco is a known cause of lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and other related medical conditions. The basis for a tobacco class action lawsuit may include, for example:

  • Failure to warn consumers;
  • Negligence;
  • Products liability;
  • Wrongful death;
  • Deceptive business practice;
  • Consumer protection;
  • Strict liability.

Mesothelioma is a disease caused by human exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is one of the many materials that are used in constructing homes. It has caused the deaths of numerous individuals in countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, among others.

A class action lawsuit may also include a claim for personal injury or wrongful death. A wrongful death claim may include:

  • Lost household income;
  • Outstanding medical bills;
  • Funeral expenses;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Related expenses;
  • Loss of consortium.

A personal injury claim may be for:

  • Hospital bills and doctor’s fees;
  • Treatment and medication costs;
  • Travel expenses for medical care;
  • Lost income;
  • Related personal expenses or other medical fees;
  • Pain and suffering.

A product liability class action lawsuit may entitle a plaintiff to damages depending on the injuries they suffered. The defendant may be required to make changes to their product or item in order to prevent future injuries to customers.

What Happens After the Putative Class Action Is Filed?

Once a putative class action lawsuit, or complaint, is filed, the parties then proceed to the discovery phase of litigation. During the discovery process, the plaintiffs and defendants will:

  • Ask each other questions;
  • Share documents;
  • Schedule and attend depositions;
  • Speak with experts.

The goal of the discovery process is to identify the evidence that is involved in the case in order to help the parties settle or win the lawsuit. This process also allows the lawyers involved to gather enough information to support the certification of the class action lawsuit and identify the class of plaintiffs.

How Does a Class Go From Putative to Certified?

When one of the parties believes they have enough evidence to convert the putative class action claim to an actual class action claim, they will request that the court certify the class. They may also request that the lawsuit become a class action that the initial plaintiff represents on behalf of the entire class of plaintiffs.

In order to determine whether or not a class action lawsuit should be certified, the court will examine several factors, including:

  • The number of individuals or plaintiffs that would be included in the class;
  • Whether the group of plaintiffs shared the same injury or injuries;
  • Whether the individual plaintiffs have the same or substantially similar facts;
  • Whether the class representative would adequately represent the interests of all of the potential plaintiffs; and
  • Whether the defendant would be able to compensate the potential plaintiffs if they won the case.

After considering the factors listed above, if the court believes there is a good reason for the lawsuit to be a class action, it will certify the class, and the case will become a class action lawsuit.

How Does a Class Action Continue?

When a lawsuit officially becomes a class action lawsuit, the class representative, who is typically the original plaintiff in the putative class action, will represent the legal interests of all of the other plaintiffs who join the class. Using the evidence and information obtained during the discovery phase, the attorneys will make every effort to contact any and all potential plaintiffs regarding the class action lawsuit.

Typically, this is done online, by mail, or using TV and radio advertisements. The potential plaintiffs would be given information about the lawsuit and would then be invited to join the class of plaintiffs that is already involved.

If an individual joins the class, the court will treat the class as a single plaintiff. This means that the outcome of the case will apply to every plaintiff in that class, whether they win or lose.

What if I Think I Have a Putative Class Action?

Class action lawsuits are heavily regulated and are also very complicated. If you are a plaintiff who has been injured by a product and you believe you may have a putative class action, you should consult with a local personal injury attorney. A lawyer can determine whether an individual may have a putative class action or if there is already a class action lawsuit pending that an individual can join.

Should I Contact a Lawyer if I Received a Notice About Joining a Class Action?

If you have received a notice in the mail or have heard about or read about a class action case you believe you may be able to participate in, you should consult a local class action lawyer. Your lawyer can help you determine the steps you should take to resolve your particular issue.


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