Most of us have heard of the term class action lawsuit. Many of us, however, may not understand what type of case this specifically is and what’s involved in the process. The following information explains what exactly a class action lawsuit is, what often happens during these cases, the benefits and disadvantages of class action suits, and the expected outcome.

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is defined as one in which several people with the same injuries or problems that have been caused by the same action or product will sue the defendant as a group. Class action lawsuits are also called multi-district litigation or mass tort litigation. Some common products that have been involved in class action lawsuits include pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and automobiles. Actions that have brought on these types of class action lawsuits include corporate misconduct, consumer fraud, and certain types of employment practices. These types of cases normally take an extensive amount of research and involve several attorneys.

What Happens During a Class Action Lawsuit?

Every individual who was harmed or who could possibly be affected by the outcome of a class action case is entitled to notice that this particular action has started. Since it’s normally not possible to give each person an individual notice there is usually some sort of public statement issued regarding the case. There is often some sort of notice about the case on television, in a newspaper, or in a magazine. Once a notification has been sent out, people are often given a certain amount of time to respond. Class action lawsuits can be filed in both federal and state courts. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 23, details instructions for these types of class suits.

  • The judge needs to certify all the plaintiffs as a class.
  • The judge must define the scope of the characteristics of each group.
  • The judge then orders that potential plaintiffs be made aware of the case.
  • Those who meet the criteria would automatically be included unless they opted out.
  • Counsel would then be appointed for the case.
  • The judge will then develop a plan for the distribution of damages.

What Are the Benefits

One of the primary benefits of these types of cases is to enable an individual who might not otherwise have the financial means or resources to be able to remedy injustices that have been committed by powerful companies and institutions. This basically gives the little guy a voice in what can be an overwhelming process. It is also a form of “checks and balances” that keeps large corporations from continuing injurious actions or fraudulent behavior if they have been found guilty. Bringing one case ultimately means the court will render one verdict regarding the entire matter. If hundreds of separate cases were filed there would be the likely possibility of slightly different court rulings that would thus create incompatible standards for the defendant to abide by.

What Are the Disadvantages

One of the major disadvantages to filling a suit as a group is if the case is lost than each individual has already given up the right to go to court on his or her own. Sometimes the damages that are paid out to each individual victim are rather small, but the lawyers involved may walk away with a large sum of money. An individual who is part of a large group case has little to no say in how the case is carried out or when it may be time to settle.

What Could You Expect From a Class Action Lawsuit?

One aspect of class action lawsuits is that the goal of the case is to make sure that every injured person receives some sort of compensation. The decision of who wins is done in regards to the whole group. If the defendant would win the case, the class action lawsuit would then be dismissed and each person in the group would not be allowed to file new legal action individually. If the class action lawsuit wins, the defendant will be liable for the injuries incurred by the plaintiffs. The amount won in the lawsuit would later be distributed among the plaintiffs.

While there are both benefits and disadvantages to class action lawsuits, they enable many individuals who might not otherwise have a voice to receive some sort of compensation for their suffering.