How Is the Lead Plaintiff Chosen in a Class Action Lawsuit?

Most people know that class action lawsuits involve numerous plaintiffs. However, for the most part, every class action only has one lead plaintiff. Some cases are so large that they require more than one. If you’re interested in becoming the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit, then you need to know how they’re chosen. 

What Does the Lead Plaintiff in a Class Action Lawsuit Do? 

Every class action lawsuit needs a lead plaintiff. Essentially, the lead plaintiff or the “named” plaintiff represents the other members of the class. 

When the lawsuit is first filed, it’s the lead plaintiff’s name that goes on the complaint. The lead plaintiff must help gather evidence during the discovery process. In fact, their role continues all the way through settlement negotiations. 

The lead plaintiff is meant to exemplify the injuries and interests of the entire class. Some of the specific duties include:

  • Their name is listed as the plaintiff on the initial complaint.
  • They have to provide the necessary evidence for discovery.
  • They must attend strategy sessions with the attorneys.
  • They have to attend any hearings and other court appointments.
  • They may be subjected to depositions by the defendant’s counsel.
  • They must approve or reject any settlement offers on behalf of the class.

Agreeing to take on the role of lead plaintiff is an important decision. 

Is There a Limit to the Number of Lead Plaintiffs?

Technically, there is no hard and fast rule about how many lead plaintiffs you need in a class action lawsuit. It usually depends on the number of members in the class. It also depends on the nature and severity of the members’ injuries.

The goal is to have a lead plaintiff who is truly representative of the class. If the class can be evenly split between those who suffered one type of injury and those who suffered another, it would make more sense to have two lead plaintiffs.

The judge has to approve whoever is offered up as the lead plaintiff. If the judge feels the class calls for more than one lead plaintiff, they’ll let the attorneys know. 

How Do Class Action Attorneys Choose Their Lead Plaintiff?

You don’t get to unilaterally choose to be the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit. What happens is the attorneys handling the litigation will determine who best represents the rest of the class.

Sometimes, the lead plaintiff is the first person who filed suit against the defendants. Other times, the attorneys will wait to see who some of the early class members are. They’ll then choose the people whose cases encapsulate everything the class stands for.

a class action lawsuit can have more than one lead plaintiff

After the lawyers choose their lead plaintiff, they have to submit their choice to the judge for approval. The judge wants to make sure that the person chosen by the attorneys adequately represents the rest of the class.

The judge will consider such things as:

  • Age to make sure it’s similar to the other members of the class
  • Geographical location to confirm they can meet with the attorneys
  • The date they signed up for the class or filed their initial complaint
  • Nature and extent of injuries suffered
  • The claim the lead plaintiff has made against the defendant(s)
  • Willingness and ability to serve primary responsibilities needed

It’s rare that the judge would simply turn down a lead plaintiff proposal, but they may request additional information about them. 

Is the Lead Plaintiff Guaranteed to Receive More Money Than Other Members of the Class?

In most class action lawsuits, the lead plaintiff does collect a significant amount in damages. Since they are meant to represent the rest of the class, the lead plaintiff often suffered the most serious of injuries.

When it comes time for your class action lawyer to negotiate a settlement, they must get the approval of the lead plaintiff. Their job is to make sure whatever settlement is accepted is fair for all members of the class.

What the lead plaintiff cannot do is identify how much of the settlement proceeds will be set aside for their case. However, since they were chosen because their injuries were emblematic of the rest of the class, it makes sense that they would receive more money than those members with less serious injuries. 

Contact Our Experienced Class Action Lawyers

If you decide that you want to be the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit, don’t wait too long. You need to reach out to an experienced class action lawyer and let them know what you want.

As long as you meet the criteria for a lead plaintiff and are willing to accept the responsibilities of this position, your odds are good. Once you communicate your intentions to the attorney handling the lawsuit, it’ll be up to them to decide if you’ll make a good lead plaintiff.

Our team at Rueb Stoller Daniel has extensive experience handling class action and mass tort cases. We have recovered millions in settlements. Call our office at 1-866-CALL-RSD and schedule your free, initial consultation.