When companies put unsafe products on the market or mislead customers about their services, a lot of people end up suffering damages. When it is clear that a lot of individuals suffered these damages due to the same product or service, they join together and file a class action lawsuit.
But what exactly is a class action suit? Why not file a personal injury lawsuit instead? In this article, the class action lawyers at Rueb, Stoller, Daniel have prepared a comprehensive guide explaining the most important points to know before filing or joining a class action litigation.
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action suit represents a single legal action where many plaintiffs join together to sue a defendant. Since it would be impossible for all plaintiffs to argue their individual cases, they select one representative that will represent the entire group.
According to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, class action litigations must meet four conditions at the same time:
- There is a large number of plaintiffs
- The plaintiffs’ legal action has common legal grounds
- The plaintiffs’ claims are similar in nature
- The representative of the class will represent everyone’s interests fairly and adequately.
Different Types of Class Action Suits
As mentioned above, class action litigation may stem from a dangerous product or from misleading representation of a service. This brings us to the classification of this type of legal action, based on causation:
- Product Liability Class Action: when a product is defective or the manufacturer fails to warn consumers of a safety issue
- Consumer Class Action: when manufacturers sell products that breach various regulations, such as misleading advertising or false discount sales
- Securities Class Action: when companies attract investors to buy securities by means of misrepresentation of facts (such as making false projections of future revenues)
- Employment Class Action: when a company’s practices have a negative impact on a large number of its employees (for instance, denying overtime payment).
How Is the Representative Plaintiff Selected?
As we have explained so far, in a class action a single plaintiff represents the entire class. So, how do they get chosen? The court will make this selection during the process of certifying the class action litigation.
Class action attorneys know that many people are wary about having a total stranger represent them in such an important matter. However, courts will perform several tests in order to check a person’s eligibility to become a class representative.
These tests are:
- The representative must represent the interests of the entire class fairly and adequately
- They are represented by a lawyer who has submitted a plan for the class action, including a method for notifying the members of the class of the pending action
- They do not have any conflicts of interest that would stand in opposition of any member on the matters of the case.
Is It Possible to Have the Class Representative Replaced?
This is a very rare occurrence, but not unheard of. Class action lawyers know of instances when the court deemed a representative unsuitable because they are no longer able to carry out their duties.
Also, the legal counsel for the defense sometimes may attempt to have the class representative replaced as a delay tactic. However, with experienced legal representation, the plaintiffs can successfully fight these tactics.
Remember that defendants are looking for any reason to discredit plaintiffs and their legal action. For this reason, it is always advisable to present a united front and avoid disagreements, including on the topic of who the class representative is.
How Is the Settlement Split Among Plaintiffs?
Once a class action lawsuit settles or the jury awards damages, the first to get their share is the class representative. There may be several lead plaintiffs. Next, the lawyers get their contingency fees – however, this amount is limited by courts to a fair amount.
The rest of the money is divided among the other class members. A plaintiff’s share depends on many elements, including:
- The total number of class members participating in the lawsuit
- How many plaintiffs suffered injuries
- How many lead plaintiffs there are
How Can I Join a Class Action Lawsuit?
Most class action litigations are opt-out legal actions. This means that you are included in the class of plaintiffs by default if you meet the requirements. If you do not wish to be included, you have to opt out, that is, decline to participate in the case.
At this point, you may ask, how do you know that you have been included in this type of litigation?
Many people learn about class action lawsuits when they receive a notice in the mail. They are unaware that they have the right to seek damages. You may receive this type of notice because you purchased a product from a company.
Other people find out about class action litigation from the news. Also, others are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit and their attorney tells them about the class action lawsuit.
Once a class action lawsuit is resolved through a settlement or in court, you generally need to submit a claim either online or by mail to receive your share of the money.
Can I Pursue an Individual Personal Injury Lawsuit Instead?
Once class action lawyers inform potential clients about the way in which damages are distributed, some of them want to pursue their own separate claims. However, this means that:
- Depending on the type of case, you may have the burden of proof (producing evidence showing the defendant’s negligence and that you suffered injuries due to their negligence)
- Attending court hearings, which is time-consuming and involves additional legal fees
As part of the class of plaintiffs, you only have to rely on your lawyer to communicate with the representative’s legal counsel, making sure that your legal rights are protected. As a general rule, you won’t have to go to court and testify unless you are a lead plaintiff.
Talk to an Experienced Class Action Attorney!
Class action litigation is still a big mystery for many individuals. Thus, they do not know how to protect their rights and enjoy a fair payout once a case is settled. This is what the class action lawyers at Rueb, Stoller, Daniel are here for.
We understand how these types of legal actions work and what to do to ensure that our clients obtain a fair share of the settlement. If you received notice or believe that you may be entitled to join a class action suit, do not hesitate to reach out to us.
We offer each new client a free case review so that you can present the facts of your case and understand your legal options. Call us now at 1-866-CALL-RSD!