When a group of people have suffered common harm from one party—whether physical or financial—they can come together to file a class-action lawsuit. This collective litigation makes it easier for the plaintiffs to seek relief by combining many potential lawsuits into a single action.
There is one trial and one jury verdict or settlement. Because there is only one named plaintiff in the case, class action lawsuits provide an opportunjuriity for multiple people who believe they have been wronged to pursue justice without having to undergo the burden of a full trial.
1. It Only Takes One
Only one person is needed to file a class-action lawsuit. Further plaintiffs are added by the court if it determines there are suits pending in which other plaintiffs allege that they suffered similar harm due to a similar violation of the law by the same defendant.
The number of class members can be inversely proportional to the size of the award each individual receives, though in some cases the amount of each individual’s award is directly proportional to the damages that they have suffered.
In other words, sometimes the award or settlement will be divided equally among class members, which means that everyone receives an equal share and the more class members there are, the smaller that share will be. In other cases, the award of the settlement amount is determined, instead, by a calculation of the actual among of the damages due to each individual
2. Joining an Existing Class Action Lawsuit
Once a class is certified, all prospective class members will typically be included by the court automatically. This means they would usually need to opt-out after receiving notice of the suit if they did not wish to be a plaintiff. In a few kinds of class action lawsuits, plaintiffs must file an opt-in notice.
Certain websites also provide a searchable listing of current class action lawsuits that are open to new claims. It is possible that, due to error or oversight, not all class members may be notified of their inclusion in a particular class, so it is a good idea to check occasionally on these actions.
3. A Valid Claim Is Needed
Just like any lawsuit, a class-action lawsuit needs to meet particular standards to be valid. For one, the court in which the action is filed must have jurisdiction. Then the plaintiff(s) must show that they have been harmed by the defendant. They must show, also, that the harm in question occurred through a violation of the law. Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they are entitled to a specific form of relief (usually, but not always, in the form of monetary compensation).
4. Certification as a Class
It is up to the court to decide whether a class can be certified, though doing so generally makes the court’s workload more practical by grouping multiple suits into just one and so judges often are inclined to certify.
In order to be certified as a class, plaintiffs must satisfy certain federal requirements; specifically, the judge must deice that it is clear that everyone in the class has suffered the same harm from the same defendant, that all would pursue the same claims and seek the same (or a similar) remedy, and that the lead plaintiff will fairly and fully represent the interests of the entire class.
Because so much depends on the judge’s decision to certify the class, hiring a law firm that specializes in class action lawsuits is particularly important; their attorneys will be able to determine well before trial whether or not the class is likely to be certified.
5. Different Types of Class Action Lawsuits
Generally, class action lawsuits fall into one of four main categories. In consumer class action lawsuits, consumers seek remedy from a company that has harmed them through its products, services, or actions. When a product suffers from a defect that causes harm to consumers, they can file a product liability class action lawsuit.
If investors have been misled by a company, that company is liable to a securities class action lawsuit. Corporate practices that violate the rights or wellbeing of employees can result in an employment class action lawsuit. Class action lawsuits in these categories follow the same rules of evidence, statutes of limitation, and so forth that individual lawsuits in those categories must follow.
6. Class Action Lawsuits Cost Nothing
Attorneys who agree to represent class action plaintiffs are paid only out of funds from the settlement (which is how most class action lawsuits end) or jury verdict award.
In other words, if the case does not succeed, the plaintiffs incur no lawyer fees. Because of the challenges presented by filing a class-action suit, and the complexity of such cases, these reasons make it all the more important and attractive to retain a law firm that specializes in such litigation.
7. Take the Payout
While declining a class action settlement payout is sometimes presented as a way of retaining the option of later bringing suit against the defendant individually, the odds of successfully litigating against the same defendant are slim.
And if plaintiffs who do pursue such a course must invest a substantial amount of time and energy. Be aware that not all class action lawsuits result in monetary compensation: in some cases, defendants will agree to, or be ordered to, provide other goods or services in lieu of payment.
8. Attorneys Who Specialize in Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits are complicated and specialized forms of litigation. The negotiations resulting from the decision to pursue a settlement can be particularly prolonged, complex, and bitter.
It is essential that plaintiffs retain a personal injury law firm, such as Sadaka Firm, that has the expertise to understand how and whether a class will be certified, how to pursue its cause, and how to navigate the class action process to a successful outcome.