Class actions are a type of litigation in which one person or a group of people file a lawsuit against a single defendant on behalf of a class of victims.
The class is a group of people who have all suffered similar injuries because of the defendant’s negligent, intentionally harmful, or fraudulent actions. Rather than filing individual lawsuits, they band together and rely on the benefit of having strength in numbers.
Class actions can be helpful in situations involving product liability, fraud, medical malpractice, institutional abuse, civil rights violations, employment discrimination, and widespread acts of negligence.
Classes Must Be Certified
Class action lawsuits begin when one person – known as the class representative – files a lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other similarly aggrieved individuals. The complaint, which kickstarts the lawsuit, explains what happened, how they’ve been injured, and why the defendant named in the suit is liable.
The representative must also ask the court to certify the class, which is required in all class action cases.
A judge will review the complaint and consider:
- Whether there are so many members of the class that separate litigation would be impracticable
- If the class members share common questions of fact or law
- If the class representative’s claims are typical of the class as a whole, and
- If the representative will adequately protect the interests of the entire class.
Simply put, do the members of the class have substantially similar claims, and does moving forward with a class action serve the best interests of the economy and justice?
If a class is certified, the class representative will be the figurehead and be involved in the everyday dealings of the class action lawsuit. The other members of the class stand by and wait for the legal process to unfold.
Joining a Class Action Lawsuit
Once a class is certified, the class representative (through their attorneys) must notify other class members. This includes individuals who may not even realize that they could potentially benefit from the class action.
Individuals can join the class or opt out. If you join the class, you forfeit the right to pursue compensation through a related civil action on your own. If you opt out of the class, you reserve the right to file a lawsuit of your own.
Results of a Class Action are Shared by its Members
When you’re part of a class action, you’re in it for better or worse. If the class action is settled, the financial recovery is shared by all members. Compensation is typically allocated proportionately to the member’s degree of harm, or as directed in the settlement agreement.
If a class action goes to trial, the class shares in victory or defeat. If the defense prevails, members of the class receive nothing. However, if the class action is successful, members receive a portion of the damages awarded by the jury.
Nationwide Class Action Attorneys at Bailey Glasser, LLP
Class action lawsuits are unlike many other types of litigation. They’re subject to complex laws and procedures. Even a slight error can derail a class and devastate the members who are simply fighting to right a wrong.
At Bailey Glasser, LLP, we’ve been helping clients navigate class action lawsuits since our founding in 1999. Our nationally-recognized trial attorneys work tirelessly to ensure that our clients have the best possible opportunities to assert their rights and secure compensation for the injustices they’ve suffered.
Call our law firm – with offices located in 14 states and Washington, D.C., – to learn more about how our attorneys might be able to help you with your class action or mass tort case. We offer a free, confidential case evaluation, so reach out to a member of our team to get started today.