What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is a type of lawsuit that involves a group, or “class” of people pursuing legal recourse for identical or similar injuries caused by a harmful or otherwise unlawful product, service, or action. In this context, the term injuries can refer to actual, physical injury, as well as damage to one’s property, reputation, or rights. Class actions are formed when there are too many potential plaintiffs to file a single personal injury or product liability lawsuit, and filing multiple individual cases is determined to be impractical or inefficient. Common examples of class actions include:
- Securities: Securities class actions are brought by plaintiff investors who were injured by defendant companies’ improper conduct including investor fraud.
- Product liability or personal injury: Product liability and personal injury class-action lawsuits are generally brought when a defective product physically harms a large number of individuals. A common example is pharmaceutical fraud that results in the manufacture and distribution of a harmful drug that is used by many patients. Other injury examples include mass disasters such as social work or nursing home negligence, human rights violations, sexual abuse, and sports litigation. It is important to remember that class actions are different from “mass tort” lawsuits. In a mass tort case, each injured victim needs to file his or her own lawsuit to receive compensation. Mass tort cases often involve dangerous pharmaceutical products or defective medical devices, such as hip implants or surgical mesh inserts.
- Consumer: These class actions hold accountable business entities who engage in systematic and fraudulent or illegal business practices that scam or harm the consumer. Examples include antitrust cases like price-fixing and market allocation agreements.
- Employment: Employees who have been discriminated against, employees with immigrant worker issues, workers who have hour and wage issues and employees who have on-the-job injuries or suffer because of employer safety violations can bring class action lawsuits against employers.
- Environment: Groups of individuals or communities affected by widespread environmental issues, such as air pollution, oil spills, or water contamination, can bring class action lawsuits against corporations or other liable entities.
A settlement involves the manufacturer agreeing to compensate all victims a set amount of money based on the damages they have endured. The settlement must be approved by the court.
How to File a Class Action Lawsuit
Class action lawsuits, given their magnitude, are legally complex. These steps provide general guidance on the class action process:
- Hire the right law firm. Any claimant who has suffered an injury or damages that others may have also suffered needs to make sure they hire an experienced class-action law firm – one with a track record of success and the resources to advocate on behalf of thousands or even millions of claimants, who also have experience in successfully trying the underlying legal claim.
- File a lawsuit. Typically, a class-action lawsuit is started by filing a complaint that names at least one class representative, and that representative files the lawsuit on behalf of the entire proposed class. The proposed class are a group of individuals who have suffered a common injury or damages arising from the same product or service. Most class action lawsuits are filed in federal court due to the Class Action Fairness Act. The defendant or defendants will have a right to respond to the lawsuit.
- Obtain class certification. Once the complaint is filed, the class representative will file a motion to have the court certify or approve the proposed class. To get approval of the class, the class representative and the law firm(s) representing the class representative must demonstrate: (1) the class is so large that individual suits are impractical; (2) common legal or factual claims exist among members of the proposed class; (3) the claims or defenses are typical of the plaintiffs or defendants; and (4) the representative parties adequately protect the interests of the class.
- Provide notice to members of the class. In most cases, once the lawsuit is certified as a class action, notice must be sent to all individuals who could be considered part of the class. Notice is sent by direct mailings to known claimants as well as through the media and through the Internet.
- Allow for opting in and opting out. Membership in the class is generally automatic, but potential class members who were injured usually do have the right to opt out of the lawsuit. The right to opt out should be set forth in the notices.
- Try the case or negotiate a settlement. Once the class is certified and the notice period is complete, the lead plaintiff will proceed with his/her case against the defendant(s) if no settlement occurs. If a verdict or a settlement is reached, all members of the claim must be notified. If a settlement is reached, injured victims will normally be notified that they can opt out of the settlement if they file proper and timely notice. Once the opt-out period has expired and the settlement proceeds have been paid, the lead plaintiff and the lead plaintiff’s counsel will arrange for payment to all eligible victims.
The attorneys at Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman have extensive experience handling class action lawsuits. Some of our successful cases include an $80 million class action settlement against Volkswagen and Audi, a $38.5 million nationwide class action settlement against Honda and Acura, and a landmark $39 million settlement on behalf of 30,000 physicians against the largest HMO in New Jersey. Contact us for a free consultation.
How to Join a Class Action Lawsuit
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In most class actions, you need not do anything to join the lawsuit. Most class actions are opt-out lawsuits. This means that class members (those whose legal interests are represented by the suit) are automatically included in the lawsuit unless they choose to opt-out, or decline to participate, in the case. Some class actions are “opt-in” lawsuits. This means that potential class members are not automatically included in the lawsuit. Opt-in class actions usually involve allegations of illegal employment practices, such as failure to pay required overtime or workplace discrimination. If the case is an opt-in lawsuit, the class action notice will provide information on how to “opt-in” and join the lawsuit.
If a class action has already been filed, you may receive a class action notice in the mail stating that your legal rights may be affected by a lawsuit. You should carefully read the class action notice. Some class actions only cover residents of certain states or individuals who suffered a particular type of physical or financial harm.
If your legal rights are affected by a class action, you usually will only need to get involved once the case settles. In most cases, you will need to submit a claim, either online or through the mail, to receive your portion of the settlement or judgment. Information on how to do so will be found in the class notice that you will receive in the mail.
At Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman, we offer aggressive legal representation, and we excel in tackling complex lawsuits for product liability, price-fixing, fraud, racketeering, discrimination, and all other unlawful activities. If you believe that you have a class action lawsuit claim, please contact us today.
Have a Class Action Claim? Contact Mazie Slater
Class action lawsuits are serious and involve complex legal issues that require expert representation. Our attorneys at Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman have extensive experience handling class action lawsuits against major corporations. Our class action lawyers have been certified as lead class counsel in major class actions and our experience ranges from lawsuits concerning defective products to lawsuits against health insurance carriers that have failed to make proper payments. We are committed to protecting the interests of groups who have been wronged by large corporations.
Here at Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman, we pride ourselves on the fact that we take the toughest cases against the most powerful defendants, and achieve unprecedented results. Contact Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman for a free consultation to see if we are right for you.