What is the Purpose of a Class Action?
The primary purpose of the Class Action procedure is to enable individuals and businesses with similar, but relatively cost prohibitive claims to join together in one lawsuit. Claims that would not make economic sense to pursue on an individual basis can often effectively be prosecuted as a Class Action. If someone has injured a large number of people in a similar manner (i.e., by selling a defective product or fixing a price), a Class Action will save time and money for all parties concerned, including the judiciary. Class actions prevent the courts from deciding the same issue over and over. A Class Action permits a large scale, nationwide, or global dispute to be decided in one court.
How Does a Class Action Begin?
A Class Action is commenced like any other lawsuit, by filing a complaint – a formal legal document, which describes the basis for the claims – with the court. It is not necessary for all of the class members to officially join the lawsuit or sign the complaint. Instead, one individual, or a small group of individuals, who are called Class Representatives, file a Class Action. The Class Representative brings the suit not only on his or her own behalf, but also on behalf of everyone in the Class. In most Class Actions the members of the Class are given notice of the existence of the Class Action, and an opportunity to exclude themselves, called opting out of the Class. Any judgment or settlement is binding on both the Class Representative and any of the class members who do not opt out.
How is a Case Certified as a Class Action?
After a Class Action complaint is filed, but before the trial, the Court must determine whether the case meets all of the legal requirements of a Class Action. These requirements include whether there is a sufficient number of people who have been affected in a similar manner by the defendant, and whether the Class Representatives will fairly and adequately represent the Class. For this reason it is important that the Class have the best possible Class Representatives.
How Will I Learn if I am in a Class Action?
If the Court certifies that a case should be prosecuted as a Class Action, the Court will order that the Class be notified and, if appropriate, be given the opportunity to opt out of the Class. The Class Notice may be sent by mail, published in newspapers or magazines, broadcast on TV or radio, posted in an Internet Web site, or a combination of these methods. Generally, if you receive a Class Notice and want to stay in the Class, you do not need to do anything. If there is a successful judgment or settlement all Class members will be notified and given an opportunity to claim their share of the judgment. If you want to opt out, the notice will give instructions as to how to do so – usually this is as simple as sending a letter to an address specified in the Class Notice.
Am I Responsible for Paying the Attorneys for the Class?
No. Neither the Class Representative nor the Class members pay anything in order to participate in a Class Action. If a Class Action results in the establishment of a common fund for compensation of Class members, the attorneys for the Class will apply to the court for reimbursement of their fees and expenses to be paid from the common fund. In some cases, the settlement provides that the defendant must pay, in addition to the Class members’ damages, the legal fees and expenses of the Class, subject to court approval.
How Can I Join a Class Action?
For each class action you will have to follow the instructions set out in the Class Notice. There are different ways that you can participate in a Class Action. First, you can serve as one of the Class Representatives. The Class Representative participates in the litigation, which may include producing relevant documents, and possibly testifying at deposition or trial. Even if you are not an official Class Representative, you can participate by providing information, documents or other assistance to the Class Representative and his or her attorneys. Bonsignore Trial Lawyers encourage all Class members to contact us if they have any questions, comments or information concerning a Class Action. Click here for a confidential questionnaire or call Robert Bonsignore at (781) 350-0000.
Why Should I Serve as a Class Representative or Provide Any Assistance to the Class?
It costs you nothing to serve as a Class Representative, and there are clear advantages to doing so. By joining the case you increase the likelihood that the Court will certify the case as a Class Action. By providing information or documents you increase the likelihood that the case will be successful, which will benefit you as a Class member. As a Class Representative you will have input into how the case is handled, including the terms of any settlement. There are no special qualifications or requirements for someone to serve as a Class Representative. By serving as a Class Representative, or by assisting with the prosecution of the case, you will be helping both yourself and your fellow Class members.
If you are interested in participating in any of the Class Actions listed on this site, or if you believe you have a case that should be pursued as a Class Action, you may Contact Us Today!