Class Action 101
As you might have gathered from television and the media, a class action lawsuit typically involves of a group of people who collectively sue a company, manufacturer, retailer, employer, government, or financial institution for injuries suffered as a result of wrongdoing or negligence. All class action lawsuits are brought on by a specific trigger event, such as injuries caused by a defective product or service. This could range from injuries caused by products such as talcum powder having possible links to cancer
to injuries caused by an event such as an airplane crash. In class action lawsuits, a single person must step forward as the face of the group of those injured – this person becomes the Representative Plaintiff for the case. Before a class action can proceed the courts generally want to see 5 things:
- A cause of action, such as negligent behavior that would allow the Plaintiff to sue.
- A definable class of people who were all affected.
- The definable class all have similar legal or factual issues.
- An indication that a class action is the best way for the Plaintiffs to pursue their claims.
- The Representative Plaintiff represents the interests of all the class members, for example, in the case of defective medication that caused similar injuries to many people, that entire group and their interests could be represented by one person.
In most cases, if these 5 criteria are met, a court will likely certify a class action, which is another way of saying they will allow it to proceed. Once the court certifies the class action, a notice is sent to all potential members of the class to ensure that anyone with similar injuries can join the lawsuit. Keep in mind, that by joining the class action the person forfeits their right to pursue individual action unless they provide written confirmation that they wish to opt-out. When the action is resolved – whether by settlement or trial – everyone in that class is bound by that resolution. The funds from the settlement are then distributed according to the category into which each person falls, which depends on such factors as the severity of their injuries.
Plaintiff – the person who brings legal action against the person or party who is being sued.
Examples of HSH class action lawsuits include: