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The ABCs For Filing Class Action Lawsuits

People may seek class-action relief when businesses wrongfully injure them and others with the same harm. Class action lawsuits allow consumers to join and take legal action against business entities whenever relief through individual lawsuits is impracticable.

Although the term “class action” is a familiar word among folks, most people are in the dark on how these lawsuits work and how to file class action claims.

No worries because once folks get familiar with the ABC’s of class action lawsuits, understating legal proceedings becomes a breeze…

Find a Class Action Specialist

Class action complaints are complex, time-consuming and costly to litigate. They demand substantial investments of time and expense to explore legal issues, build evidence and organize the class.

This is why attorneys who specialize in advocating class action claims invest inadequate resources to tackle the workload.  

Folks should know that most law firms offer free consultations, either online or in person, where attorneys ask important fact questions and request documentation on damages.

The circumstances surrounding losses will reveal whether complainants hold legitimate prima facie cases; if so, most advocates will offer to litigate claims on a contingency basis.

This means victims pay no upfront fees, and attorneys only receive payment if they prevail.

Locate Other Class Action Plaintiffs

Lawyers begin locating potential plaintiffs after entering into contract with class action victims.

The courts require advocates to find others who suffered the same injuries pleaded in the lawsuit; remember that class action complaints can only move forward when numerous plaintiffs suffer the same harm.

Filing the Class Action

Filing the lawsuit officially starts legal proceedings. Once attorneys assemble plaintiffs and verify factual and legal issues, advocates plead state or federal courts to hear the class action complaint. Arguments detail causes of action and damages sustained by the class. Pleadings further demand fair compensation recovery for those who join the claim.

Seeking Class Action Certification

Judges must certify claims for lawsuits to continue. Class action certification requires fulfillment of four elements:

  • Lawsuits must encompass many litigants, meaning the company’s harm must have reached enough people to warrant proceeding with one large complaint, as opposed to litigating each claim independently.
  • All plaintiffs must share common questions of law and fact. This boils down to making certain each complainant’s legal claim and the facts surrounding the dispute are the same for all class members.
  • Individuals named in the lawsuit must have experienced the same level of harm as everyone else. This rule preserves the lawsuit’s unity by assuring all parties receive equal remedies.
  • The named plaintiffs and their attorneys must hold the means and interest to represent every class member adequately. The courts allow only experienced lawyers to engage in complex class action litigation.

Class Certification Example

Attorneys regard certification as the most important stage in class action proceedings.  

Let’s study an example…

Joe buys the world-famous ACME iSmartphone, but after two years the antenna stops working. Tech reports reveal a malfunctioning circuit board caused the damage. Joe elects to sue ACME via class action.

While hearing certification arguments, a judge finds Joe has yet to reveal how many people suffered the same harm, but the court believes ACME’s iSmartphone has damaged millions of consumers.

Joe asserts all potential class members will seek the court’s guidance in establishing the facts (property defect, unjust enrichment by the company) and resolving the legal questions (business negligence or company deceit) surrounding the claim.

Joe’s lawyer presents evidence demonstrating future plaintiffs will have experienced the same damages as his client; the advocate further shows the court that his resources can adequately and competently litigate for every person harmed.

The court affirms Joe’s motion and grants class certification to any US consumer who purchased an iSmartphone over the last two years.

Selection of Class Counsel and Administrator

The courts appoint class counsel and/or settlement administrators after certification. Attorneys who receive class counsel or administrator appointments are specialists who already worked substantially on the lawsuit and who have the experience and business resources to see the claim to conclusion. 

Issuance of Class Action Notices

Class administrators must send class action certification notices to all existing and potential class members. These disclosures inform individuals about the potential harm and the remedies requested. Class counsel notifies potential plaintiffs through mail, print ads or online publishing.

Class action notices contain instruction on how to join classes and take part in settlements. Once receiving consideration, complainants can either (i) opt out of the lawsuit and sue separately; (ii) affirm the notice and file a claim; or (ii) do nothing and surrender all rights to sue later.

Enter Mediation and Settlement

Most Companies settle class action claims in mediation. Why, one may ask… just think of what could happen to company stock if news got out a business carelessly agreed use an antenna supplier that works with defective material.

Neutral mediators help parties reach impartial settlements, but courts still must consider agreements fair before allowing awards to stand.

Seeking Class Action Final Approval

Fairness hearings find if class action settlements are just and reasonable. Here, courts either reject settlement offers or issue orders approving compensation for class members. Judges also determine attorney fees and expenses during the hearing and reduce these costs from the award.

Sending Relief to Class Members

Cash, vouchers or product replacement are typical awards appearing in class action settlements. When courts approve class action awards administrators send notification to plaintiffs explaining how to collect compensation.

Settlements legal bind class members from pursuing further redress because businesses require signed waivers from litigants before they can receive their award.