In a class action lawsuit, a group of people who have suffered similar injuries caused by the same product or event sue a defendant as a “class.” The people in the group are called class members. This is different from a traditional lawsuit where there is generally only one party suing another party.
Class actions are commonly used for defective products, such as medical devices, pharmaceutical drugs, motor vehicles, and other consumer goods. For example, users who have the same injuries caused by the same brand of hip implants may qualify as a class. Class actions may also be appropriate for employment practices, advertising fraud, and corporate and securities misconduct.
Class Certification: How Class Actions Are Created
Before a class action lawsuit can begin, a court must certify the class. This means that the court will decide whether or not a class action is the best way to handle all the claims. To be certified as a class, there must be so many potential plaintiffs and lawsuits against the defendant that it wouldn’t be practical to hear them all individually. There’s no rule stating how many people are required to form a class, but it’s possible to have hundreds or thousands of members in a certified class.
Next, all class members must have the same legal claims. This means that all of the claims must raise the same legal arguments about the same event. A class representative will be chosen to represent the interests of the group. The representative is the lead plaintiff and their name appears on all legal documents. It’s the class representative’s duty to make all the important decisions for the class, including when to settle.
Finally, the court must determine if the defendant will have enough money to compensate the members should the lawsuit be successful. If all of these requirements are met, then a court will certify the class and the lawsuit can begin.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Class Action Lawsuits
The advantage of a class action lawsuit is that a group of people will be able to litigate their claims at the same time. As a result, all members will receive some compensation if the class wins the lawsuit. However, it’s possible that the compensation won’t be enough to cover all of a class member’s injuries.
Class members also share the costs of litigation, so no individual pays for all the legal fees. On the other hand, if the class is unsuccessful, the law prevents individual members from suing the defendant again over the same legal issues and facts. That means that if the class loses, members won’t have a second chance to bring a separate lawsuit or recover damages from the defendant.