1. What is a class action lawsuit?
Class action is a form of lawsuit when a group of people brings a claim to court. Class action is a good method of addressing small claims which may be too expensive to litigate individually. Usually, class action seeks compensation on behalf of all class members.
2. What are the types of class action lawsuits?
There are several types of class action lawsuits:
- Consumer Fraud Class Action Lawsuits (getting scammed or ripped off, falling a victim of false advertising);
- Product Liability Class Action (buying damaged items, items with false labels or damaged products);
- Securities Fraud Class Actions (buying or selling stocks, bonds etc. as a result of misleading statement or document made by a company);
- Employment and Labor Discrimination Class Actions;
- Pharmaceutical and Prescription Drug Class Actions (getting meds with harmful side-effects);
- Medical Device Class Actions;
- Property Owner Class Actions (getting medical problems or losing property value in the result of spilled toxic products in the neighborhood).
3. What are the necessary steps in class action proceedings?
Standard class action procedure includes such stages as:
- Certification. At this stage the judge certifies plaintiffs as a class. Only 20-40% of lawsuits filed as class actions get certified.
- Defining the class. The judge is obliged to define all the features that characterize the class. For instance, anyone who was prescribed harmful drugs by doctor X from 2009 to 2012, or anyone who bought defective items in a store X.
- Taking obligations. After agreeing to represent, the class representative plaintiff accepts obligations to the absent members of the class.
- Notification. The judge must notify all the plaintiffs about class action via email, phone, mail, radio etc.
- Opting out. If you get into the described scope of class, then you get automatically included in the case. If you file a lawsuit alone, then you be opted out of the class action.
- Appointing counsel. Counsel for the plaintiffs is selected by the judge. Usually, this is a lawyer who filed the case to the court, but judge must be sure the lawyer has enough experience and knowledge to represent the class.
- Damage distribution. The judge and the plaintiff’s attorney develop a scheme of how to distribute monetary compensations. The settlement must always be approved by the judge. Also, the judge decides how much the lawyers are paid.
4. What are the requirements to class actions?
According to the Federal Rules of the Civil Procedure there are four main requirements to class action:
- Numerosity - class must contain at least 35 persons;
- Commonality - fact of question of law must be common to the whole class;
- Typicality - one or several persons can sue or be sued as representatives of the class;
- The chosen representative(s) must fairly protect interests of the group.
5. What are the pros and cons of a class action?
Before paticipating in a class action lawsuit, one should carefully weigh all its advanatges and disadvantages.
Pros of a class action lawsuit:
- higher judicial efficiency;
- lower litigation costs which are spread among class members;
- power of group;
- equalizes the power of individuals and entities;
- higher level of certainty for defendants;
- the opportunity for plaintiffs to get protected for less costs;
- greater uniformity of recoveries among similar plaintiffs;
- proportional damage recovery for all plaintiffs.
Cons of a class action lawsuit:
- threat of hurting other members` legitimate claims;
- lack of decision making control;
- lack of control for unnamed plaintiffs;
- higher complexity and prices;
- greater resources and time of both court and attorneys;
- limited types of compensation: money, rebates, coupons for future services.
6. How to file a class action lawsuit?
Taking the following steps will help you to file a class action lawsuit:
- Understand the problem which started the lawsuit.
- Refer to an attorney that handles class action lawsuits.
- Sign an agreement with an attorney to represent you in the class action. Get ready to pay a deposit against any attorney's fees incurred for representing your case.
- File the class action lawsuit. Filing fee is obligatory unless you possess a filing waiver or deferral.
- Make up a summons and complaint on the appropriate defendant(s). Process servers may be hired to perform this task.
- Inform all members as per the order of the court. The notice is given either through publication in a major periodical, via mail or by personally serving notice. A copy of the compliance certificate with the court's order is required.