A class action lawsuit is a legal action in which one or more “named” plaintiffs sue a defendant on behalf of a much larger group. The group of plaintiffs is known as a class and the named plaintiffs are referred to as representatives of the class.
The Cooper Law Firm handles employment class actions as well as consumer class actions. These advocate suits can be filed in either state or federal courts, depending on a number of factors unique to each.What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
These cases differ from individual plaintiff lawsuits in several significant ways. The differences include:
- Number of plaintiffs
- Recovery for minimal damages
- Desired outcome
These suits have a large number of plaintiffs joined together as a class, rather than an individual plaintiff. They also allow for recovery for minimal damages that would otherwise be impractical to sue for due to the cost of litigation. Usually, the desired outcome of a class action lawsuit is to change the behavior of the defendant and set precedent, such as to stop the defendant and others in the industry from unfair business practices, such as false or misleading advertising.Pros and Cons of Class Actions
There are pros and cons of pursuing these actions. The pros include:
- Members with minimal damages can recover
- Injunctive relief
- Public policy reasons
By joining, a plaintiff with minimal losses will be able to recover compensation where otherwise the cost of litigation may negate or even exceed the losses suffered. Successful lawsuits can result in injunctive relief, which means that the defendant will be prohibited from continuing the actions or behaviors in dispute in the future. These suits also allow important public policy precedents to be set that benefit all members of society, such as preventing manufacturers from not adequately warning of possible dangers of their products or stopping an illegal practice by an employer.
The cons associated with this type of litigation are:
- All plaintiffs recover equally
- Members forfeit right to sue individually
- Less control over the litigation
- Potential for only minimal recovery for all
- Potential plaintiffs might be included in a class without notice
These cases can take a significantly longer period of time due to the complex nature of the action. Also, all plaintiffs are treated the same and recover equally, despite the possibility that some plaintiffs may have had greater injury or losses compared to those with only minimal damages. Members of a class also have much less control over the direction or finer points of the litigation.
In addition, individual plaintiffs typically forfeit their right to sue individually once a class is formed, even if they did not receive notice, barring their ability to recover damages in individual plaintiff litigation. Each case is different, so it is important to speak with a Cooper Law Firm representative about your case as early as possible to help ensure proper preparation.Should My Case Be a Class Action?
Although there are many different cases which are eligible, the following are a list of the most common types:
- A group of consumers who purchased a defective product or were misled by false advertising or deceptive business practices
- Employees who were subjected to discriminatory or illegal practices by their employer, such as age discrimination, sexual harassment or wage and hour violations
- Landowners and community members affected by the defendant causing harm to the environment, such as air or water pollution
- Customers and investors who suffered losses due to predatory lending or breaches of securities law
- Patients and consumers who suffer loss or injury because of defective drugs or medical devices
Successful lawsuits allow members to recover damages. The types of damages recoverable by a class include:
- Personal injury
- Economic loss
- Injunctive relief
- Costs of litigation, including attorney fees
Members of a class can recover damages for personal injuries resulting from the defendant’s products, actions or practices. Economic losses, such as the cost associated with the loss of value to your home due to pollution or lost wages incurred while recovering from an injury resulting from a defective product, are also recoverable in a class action suit. Costs of litigation, including attorneys fees, may also be awarded. If injunctive relief is allowed, an injunction will be enacted forcing the defendant to stop the actions or practices that were the cause of the class action.State Vs. Federal
These lawsuits can be filed in state or federal court, each having its own advantages and disadvantages. A class action lawsuit in California will have the proper venue and jurisdiction for the class action claim determined after an attorney evaluates the class as a whole.
Cases filed in federal courts are governed by the requirements outlined in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and U.S.C. Section 1332(d). In order to be certified as a class and have your lawsuit filed in federal court under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, the class must possess the following factors:
- The factual or legal dispute at issue must be common to all class members
- The number of individuals affected is large enough that it would be impractical to bring all affected persons before the court
- The representatives must have the same claims as the rest of the class
- Representatives must provide fair and adequate protection for the class
Members of a class must have common factual or legal disputes and the same claims as the rest of the class. For example, if a car manufacturer produced 10 million vehicles with defective engines, a class could be comprised of the 10 million owners who suffered losses due to the defective engines. However, an owner who suffered losses because the vehicle had faulty windshield wipers would not be eligible to join the class – this owner has a different factual dispute with the manufacturer and does not have the same claim as the rest of the class.
Continuing the example, it would be impractical to bring 10 million plaintiffs in front of a court separately: the courts would be overwhelmed and the redundancy of 10 million identical claims would be extremely inefficient. Further, the representatives must provide fair and adequate protection for the class. The representatives’ claims must be a fair representation of the claims of the class as a whole and the outcome of the case must benefit all members of the class.
Once your class has been certified, in order to bring a lawsuit in federal court, the claim must arise under federal law or meet one of the criteria of U.S.C Section 1332(d). To satisfy the criteria, the federal district courts must have original jurisdiction over any civil action where the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000 and:
- Any member of the class is a citizen of a state different than that of the defendant; or
- Any member of the class is a citizen or subject of a foreign state and the defendant is a citizen of a state; or
- Any member of the class is a citizen of a state and the defendant is the citizen or subject of a foreign state
Many states have adopted their own versions of the Federal Rules regarding class actions and their requirements can vary greatly from state to state. Generally, federal lawsuits are favorable to the defendant, while state suits are favorable to the plaintiffs.Get Help
Class action lawsuits are an effective way to bring together a group of plaintiffs with common legal or factual disputes against a defendant in a way that minimizes cost and forces defendants to stop the illegal or negligent activities at issue. A class action attorney can help a class navigate the complicated legal landscape, ensuring the best results for all members of the class and society as a whole.
Call (844) 724-9200 to obtain a free case evaluation. We've assisted more than 500,000 class members and have a 10.0 attorney rating.