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What is a class action?

A class action is simply a procedural device in law that permits a person to sue on behalf of himself and as others similar situated.  It is a way to aggregate similar claims to promote efficient adjudication in court.

Why should I care about class action cases?

Class action cases can have a significant impact on individuals and society as a whole. Here are a few reasons why.

Access to justice  Class action cases can provide access to justice for individuals who may not have the resources or ability to bring a lawsuit on their own. By pooling their claims together, individuals can share the costs and risks of litigation, making it easier to hold companies accountable for wrongdoing.

Holding corporations accountable  Class action cases can be a powerful tool for holding corporations accountable for their actions. When a company faces a class action lawsuit, it can face significant financial damages and reputational harm, which can incentivize it to change its behavior and improve its practices.

Protecting consumer rights  Class action cases can protect consumer rights by providing a way to challenge unfair or deceptive business practices, such as false advertising or hidden fees. When consumers come together in a class action lawsuit, they can seek compensation for their losses and send a message to companies that they must be transparent and honest in their dealings with consumers.

Deterrence  Class action cases can serve as a deterrent against future wrongdoing by companies. When companies see the financial and reputational costs of defending against a class action lawsuit, they may be more likely to comply with regulations and industry standards, and avoid engaging in harmful practices in the first place.

Overall, class action cases can be an important tool for promoting fairness, justice, and accountability in our society, and they can have a significant impact on the lives of individuals and communities.

Can I bring a class action case?

Depends.  To bring a class action case, we need to meet certain legal requirements, including:

Sufficient number of plaintiffs  You need to have enough individuals who have similar claims or injuries to justify bringing a class action lawsuit. Courts have not provided a cut-off number, but some courts have said that as few as 10 class members were sufficient.  However, to ensure that the case proceeds as a class action, we prefer to see there are at least 50 people who can be part of the class.

Common legal and factual issues  There must be common legal and factual issues that apply to all members of the proposed class. This means that the claims of the plaintiffs in the class action must arise from the same facts or circumstances.  In employment class actions, this is easily met because the employees often worked under the same company policies.

Adequacy of representation  The named plaintiff(s) must adequately represent the interests of the proposed class and be able to fairly and adequately protect their interests.

Typicality The claims of the named plaintiff(s) must be typical of the claims of the proposed class.

The above description is not exhaustive of all the legal requirements of brining a class action case.  You will need an experienced lawyer to represent you to bring the class action case.  In general terms, however, if you suffered damages and your damages were caused by the same wrongdoer against you and others who were in a similar situation as you, you can initiate a class action.

Can any lawyer handle a class action case?

Not all lawyers are qualified to handle class action cases. Class actions can be complex and require specialized knowledge and experience in both substantive law and procedural rules.

If you are considering bringing a class action case, it is important to work with a lawyer who has experience with class action litigation. You should look for an attorney who has a track record of success in handling class actions, and who has experience in the specific area of law relevant to your case.

Some law firms specialize in class action litigation, while others may have attorneys with experience in this area as part of a broader practice. When selecting an attorney or law firm, it is important to do your research and ask about their experience, qualifications, and success rate in handling class action cases.

What is my incentive to bring a class action case versus an individual case?

This is perhaps best explained with a hypothetical.

If an employee decides to leave her job for a better one, and her former employer refuses to pay for her 2-week accrued vacation (which would be $1,600 if her hourly rate if $20), she can certainly bring a lawsuit to recover your damages of $1,600.  While $1,600 is not an insignificant amount of money, however, she will have a difficult time finding a lawyer who will accept that case.  And she may not have the time or patience to file this case in a small claims court.

If this employer is doing this to other employees pursuant to company policy, this is an ideal situation for a class action case.  If she hires a class action lawyer like our firm to bring this case and we win or settles the case, she will be awarded a class representative service payment for serving as the champion on behalf of herself and others who have been wronged.  The amount of service payment depends on the judge and the facts of each case, but a class representative may be awarded as much as $15,000 (sometime more) to the class representative for his/her service.

Class action lawyer will be paid from the total settlement amount so the class representative will receive the entire $15,000 without having to pay the lawyer a percentage of that award.  In addition, she would get a second check for her share of the net settlement amount.  A simple math will reveal this employee’s incentive for bringing a class action versus an individual case.  Most importantly, however, this employees was not only able to recover her damages and be compensated for her time, but she also obtained recovery for other employees not to mention change the company’s behavior so it will not engage in this type of behavior in the future.

How long does a class action case take to resolve?

It depends.  The length of time it takes to resolve a class action case can vary depending on many factors, including the complexity of the legal issues involved, the number of plaintiffs, and the willingness of the parties to engage in settlement discussions.

While many people believe that class action cases take a long time, it should be noted that regular civil cases involving personal injury, business dispute, and other issues also take a long time if the cases are contested.  In fact, many regular civil cases often take 3 to 4 years to go to trial due to the heavy caseload and insufficient number of judges in both state and federal courts.

Many of the class action cases we handled have resolved relatively quickly because we were able to convince defendants and defense counsel to go to early mediation to try to resolve the case.  That ability comes from our deep experience in having handled hundreds of class action cases and our familiarity with many of the industry players such mediators, defense counsel, and judges.

I heard only class action lawyers benefit from class action lawsuits. Is that true?

No, that is not true.  While there are some class action cases where the payments to class members are relatively small, those cases typically deal with a situation the harm suffered by each class member is minor or incalculable, such as in a false advertising case.  In those cases, even though the total settlement amount may be in the millions, it is divided among a large number of plaintiffs which results in a small check to class members who make a claim.

Employment class actions typically yield a higher payout to employees, though it depends on the facts of each case.  For instance, our firm has settled a wage-and-hour class action against a national company where the average payout to a class member was approximately $5,600 and the highest payout to an employee was $58,047.

Furthermore, it should be noted that a class action lawyers work on contingency without getting paid for many years while they have to pay for their employees’ salaries and overheads.  Thus, they bear the financial burden and risk without any guarantee of a payday.