If you spend any length of time reading the news, whether it’s digital, in print, or on television, you’ll almost certainly come across information concerning a class action lawsuit. So, what exactly is a class-action lawsuit, and how do these cases function in terms of the procedure? What are the benefits for those who are considered part of the “class,” as well as what happens if someone chooses to “opt-out”?
What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class-action lawsuit is a special type of lawsuit brought on behalf of a group of persons who have identical grievances against the exact perpetrator (or sometimes, against multiple defendants). One or more class representatives, often known as lead plaintiffs, file the lawsuit. After the lawsuit is filed, the court will rule whether or not the case should be handled as a class action. In most cases, the court makes its decision after carefully considering four important factors:
- Is there a sufficient number of independent lawsuits to render class certification the more efficient and cost-effective option?
- Is there enough hurt and misconduct in the claims?
- Are the putative class representatives’ claims indicative of those of all class members?
- Adequacy – Are the elected officials capable of fairly and effectively representing the class?
Class Action Certification
A class of claims has to be “certified” by the courts before it may proceed as a class action. A class action may be regulated by federal or state law, based on the fundamental subject matter. Although the federal system and state standards differ slightly in how a class is certified, many states follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). The certification criteria as outlined in Rule 23(a) of the FRCP are as follows:
- There must be so many potential claimants that joining them all as named plaintiffs in a single standard case is “impracticable.”
- All claims must have similar “constitutional questions or fact,” implying that they are all founded on the same fault or violation. A notable example is multitudes of accusations against a manufacturer for a malfunctioning dishwasher switch.
- The designated plaintiffs, or class representatives, possess the same claims as the rest of the class, and any arguments raised by the defendant would be comparable or identical. In the case of the dishwasher, the listed plaintiff’s claim cannot be linked to a faulty pump.
- The class reps will ensure that the class is protected fairly and adequately.
If you’ve had a complaint with a consumer good or service, or if you have a legal problem that you believe may affect a great number of individuals, your best first move could be to see if a class action lawsuit has already been filed. Regardless of whether a class action lawsuit has been filed — and particularly if you’ve suffered large or unusual damages as a result of the issue — it’s a good idea to talk to an expert attorney about your case to understand and comprehend your rights and alternatives.