Class action lawsuits are lawsuits brought by a group of individuals or a group representing a larger group of people. The group is usually composed of people who have suffered similar grievances at the hands of the same wrongdoer. This type of lawsuit provides a vehicle for injured people to band together and seek collective justice. It is a tool that allows a large number of individuals to seek redress for the same wrongs without having to shoulder the burden of going through a full-scale trial process for every individual.
Class action lawsuits can be filed on behalf of a large group of people and can provide substantial monetary or non-monetary relief to the members of the class. These lawsuits are becoming increasingly popular due to the cost savings that can come with pursuing a case collectively rather than individually, as well as for their impact in obtaining justice on behalf of a large group of people who would otherwise be unable to seek justice individually or collectively.
In this article, we will examine how class action lawsuits work and the process involved in bringing a class action. We will also look at some of the pros and cons of suing as a class and the impact of class action lawsuits on the justice system.
What Is A Class Action?
A class action is a lawsuit initiated by one or more persons, on behalf of a large group of persons, in which all of the claimants have suffered the same kind of injury or harm. These persons are known as “class members” and they are said to share “commonality” in regards to their claims against the defendant.
Class actions are brought in order to resolve claims of multiple claimants in one single case, instead of litigating multiple individual cases. A successful class action lawsuit receives a resolution (or settlement) for the entire class of claimants at once. This is also beneficial for class members, as it avoids lengthy litigation for every individual claim and reduces uncertainty as to the outcome.
Filing A Class Action Suit
The process of filing a class action suit begins with a class representative- the person who files the complaint for the class of people who have suffered the same injury or harm. To qualify as a class representative, the person must meet certain criteria- such as having knowledge and familiarity with the subject matter of the lawsuit, being authorized to represent the class members and having a credible connection to the class members.
In order to have the case accepted as a class action, the class representative must file a motion with the court and be able to satisfy the “prerequisites of a class action”. These include but are not limited to: (1) the extent of commonality among the claims of the class members; (2) the prosecution of separate actions by individual members of the class would be impracticable; (3) the claims of the class members raise common issues that can be adequately resolved as a class; (4) the class action would be superior to other available forms of adjudications.
Once the court accepts the motion for a class action, it will issue a “class certification” order certifying the action as a class action case. From this point forward, the class representative is bound by the court’s order of class certification.
Discovery and Litigation in a Class Action
Once the court classifies the lawsuit as a class action, discovery begins. The discovery process is an opportunity for class members and defendants to learn the facts of each side’s case before the trial. During discovery, the parties exchange interrogatories (written questions), requests for production (demands for documents), and requests for admission (demands for confirmation of facts).
After completion of the discovery period, the parties proceed to trial. At trial, a jury or judge will determine, based on a weighing of the evidence, whether the defendant is liable for the harm to the class members. Once liability has been found, the court determines what damages the class members have suffered.
Class Action Settlement
Although class actions may ultimately proceed to trial, the vast majority of class actions are instead resolved by way of settlement.
In a settlement, the defendant agrees to provide some form of compensation to the class members without the need for further litigation. The settlement amount is usually determined through extended negotiations between the parties. A court must approve any settlement agreement in order for it to become effective.
The settlement offer can provide either monetary relief or non-monetary relief. In addition, the settlement can provide an ongoing remedy to a particular problem- such as an order prohibiting the defendant from engaging in similar wrongdoing in the future.
Class Action Pros and Cons
As with any legal option, there are both advantages and disadvantages to filing a class action suit. For example, one of the primary benefits of pursuing a class action is that it can be cost effective and provide quicker relief than litigating multiple individual cases. In addition, class actions provide the opportunity for justice on behalf of a large group of people, some of whom might otherwise not be able to pursue their claims in court.
On the other hand, class action suits may not be ideal for certain claimants. For example, certain types of damages can only be recovered by individual claimants (not by the class as a whole) and a class action may not provide each claimant with the best possible outcome.
Class Action Impact on Justice System
Class actions have played an important role in advancing justice in the U.S. legal system. By combining the claims of many similarly situated individuals, class actions have enabled vulnerable individuals, those who otherwise would not have the resources or ability to pursue justice, to receive relief and compensation.
Many of the most significant civil rights cases, including those involving civil rights violations, environmental protection, gender discrimination and consumer rights, have been successfully resolved via class action. Class actions have also had a significant impact in a variety of other legal areas, including mass tort litigation, wage and hour violations, patent infringement and more.
Class action lawsuits provide a powerful tool for obtaining justice on behalf of a large group of people who have suffered similar injuries or harm. They are becoming increasingly popular as a way to bring fairness and resolution to legal disputes without the need for lengthy and costly individual litigations. It is important to remember, however, that class action suits may not always be the best option for certain claimants and that there can be both advantages and disadvantages to filing such a suit. Ultimately, it is important for claimants to fully understand the process and all of the potential implications before proceeding with a class action.