What Are Class Action Lawsuits?

Many people would have probably heard of class action lawsuits before but what exactly are they? A class action lawsuit is a legal proceeding that allows a lawyer to file a suit on behalf of a group of people referred to as “the class.” It is a civil lawsuit, not a criminal one. The suit may be filed by a plaintiff, or any voluntary association acting on behalf of the public good. If any judgment arises from the class action lawsuit and it includes a settlement, it is expected to cover all members of the class of plaintiffs. The details of a single lawsuit of this type may vary from suit to suit, but the overall issues that make up the dispute are common across all members of the class. They may be filed with in federal court or state court, and because of their flexibility, they can offer coverage to a class representative that other types of lawsuit can’t. But what are the elements of a class action lawsuit?

When You Can Institute a Class Action Suit

Class action suits can only be brought against a defendant if a few pertinent points are covered. Among them are:

  • Typicality: This element ensures that the claims made by the representative plaintiff reflect the overall issues faced by the entire class of plaintiffs.
  • Numerosity: When there are simply too much members in the class to reasonably expect them to fit into a single courtroom, numerosity comes into play. Group legal action is therefore the only option.
  • Commonality: Each class member must have suffered something that arises from the same generic set of facts.
  • Adequate Representation: The class representative should be indicative of the overall class of individuals involved in the suit.

There may be several types of class actions that could be brought against a defendant. The most common are securities class actions, consumer product liability (for defective products), and civil rights proceedings. Regardless on the type of class action, the stipulations MUST be met. Once a suit meets the requirements to be a class action, attorneys usually prefer to go that route.

Benefits of Class Actions

While each plaintiff could potentially bring representative suits against the defendant, this isn’t always a viable method of pursuing justice. Choosing to take legal action as a member of a class has some significant benefits than trying to file individual claims. Among the benefits that a class action case offers to injured parties are:

  • Practicality: In a class action, there’s no need to have each of the injured parties present to deal with the issue. If the suit is a nationwide class action, this is not a viable option. Instead a class representative serves as a stand-in for each injured party.
  • Justifiable: When class-action litigation happens, the settlement that each individual plaintiff gets may be a small amount. Based on the amount of time and effort put into this, it’s just untenable for an individual plaintiff to file a suit on a single defendant.
  • Time-Efficient: If a single class action has hundreds of plaintiffs, there simply aren’t enough courtrooms to hear them all. Law firms representing these plaintiffs might be forced to split their resources thin and expend far more time and money than would make the case feasible.
  • More Equitable: Class actions level the playing field. A massive defendant corporation making billions a year can still be brought to heel in a court of law by a skilled class action law firm. It holds them responsible in a United States court of law for their illegal business practices.

The Process of Mass Tort Litigation

Federal courts in the United States allow a class action law firm to file a suit on behalf of a class of individuals. However, the very first step in this is to have the class certified. Obtaining class certification requires the lawyer to file a motion allowing for the federal courts to certify the class. For class certification to proceed:

  • The lawyer must provide a valid legal claim against the defendant companies.
  • There must be a lead plaintiff assigned to chair the class lawsuit.
  • Prove that the class is large enough and fulfills all the requires of a class as mentioned above.

Once the class is certified, it’s the purvey of the lawyer or lead plaintiff to inform members of the class of the mass action. A modern class action usually does this through emails or advertisements. The plaintiffs may file either an opt-in or an opt-out class action. In the case of an opt-out class action, plaintiffs can choose to avoid being part of the suit if they choose to within the opt-out period. In other cases, they may only be able to opt out of the class action settlement. If plaintiffs prefer to opt out, they are absent class members. Luckily, the litigation serves to protect absent class members from fallout.

In some situations, a parallel class action may arise. A parallel class action happens when much of the same individuals are litigating against the defendant over the same issues but in another forum. This term refers to class action litigation that is filed in both federal courts as well as one of more state courts. Once plaintiffs have a legal claim, they can file a suit against the defendant.

Claims and Settlements

Filing a class action in the United States allows a class of individuals to expect adequate compensation to ensure that each member of the class gets their due on an individual basis. Some of the financial compensation plaintiffs get range between the thousands of dollars to millions, based on the amount of damages that the defendant caused to the plaintiffs.

A modern class action suit may arise from product liability, such as a medical device. Another typical type of suit involves antitrust violations. Antitrust violations are when a business or organization monopolizes a particular business to the detriment of the consumer. Class action litigation can be filed at any time within the claim filing deadline. As with most other types of claims in civil court, the claim filing deadline is subject to the statute of limitations. It is important to note that a plaintiff cannot file a suit if they have signed a class-action waiver. Many terms and conditions have a class-action waiver built into them to prevent the company facing suits long after their product hits the market.

Having legitimate claims to bring to the table means that the entire class could potentially benefit from financial compensation. The claims must be legitimate to avoid an abusive class action suit. Abusive class action lawsuits are frivolous and damage the court system. A single defendant may be in a better position to capitalize on financial compensation as a member of the entire class than as a single litigant. A class action lawsuit settlement, as mentioned before, needs to cover all members of the class. As a result, a class action lawsuit settlement seems like massive volumes of financial compensation, but each member of the mass action only gets a small portion of the final settlement.

Choosing a Class Action Lawyer

Deciding which class action legal firm should represent you in a class suit is a serious matter. Once you bring your legitimate claims to a legal representative, they will be able to advise you on the best course of action. Sometimes, there may already be a class action motion running that you can become a member of. In other cases, the lawyer may need to find other members that might be involved in such a case. Research into types of claims that are similar allows them to prepare for the filing. You should choose a company that has a proven record in dealing with these kinds of claims. Give us a call today and let’s consult on your mass tort litigation.

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