Business, Law

How Consumer Class Action Lawsuits Work

lawsuitThe class action lawsuit is a type of civil lawsuit, but it is very different in several ways. This lawsuit will not be filed by one individual to address one person’s grievances. The consumer class action lawsuit may be filed by one person or more than one person, but it will be on behalf of several people.

Why File a Class Action Lawsuit?

Consumers who have been injured by a product have the right to sue the manufacturer on their own. However, if many people have been injured by the same product, they all can choose to enter a class action lawsuit. This option is advantageous when there are too many people affected by a defective product for each one to bring their own individual lawsuits.

Examples of when class actions lawsuits are beneficial to a large group of people are when they have been injured by a drug, tobacco products, securities fraud, breast implants or contraceptives. In these cases, it may be extremely difficult for one person to fight a large pharmaceutical company in court on his or her own.

What Qualifies a Lawsuit as a Class Action Lawsuit?

The first action to take in a consumer class action lawsuit is for the individual or individuals to formally file it in the U.S. district or state courts against an alleged wrongdoer. The next step is to ask the court to certify the lawsuit as a class action. For this to be successful, the plaintiffs will need to prove the following to the court:

  • They are legally entitled to file such a lawsuit against this particular defendant
  • The injured parties received their injuries from the defendant’s product in much the same way. Specifically, if each of the members filed their own lawsuit, they would be presenting facts that would be similar to the lead plaintiff’s facts. For example, in the case of a pharmaceutical, each of the injured parties would need to have experienced the same side effects
  • The lead plaintiff cannot be significantly different from everyone else involved in the lawsuit. The lead plaintiff must also be able to adequately represent the case for all of the members. There can be no conflict whatsoever between the lead plaintiff and any other member of the class. Therefore, if the lead plaintiff is to receive a cash award, everyone in the class must also receive the same judgment

Notifying Members of the Class Action

If all of the above criteria are met, the court may certify the lawsuit as a class, and the lawsuit can move forward. Everyone involved in the class action lawsuit will need to be made aware of it, and the lead plaintiff can do this by sending a notice to these people in the mail. Sometimes, the plaintiffs do not have accurate addresses for each person. In these cases, they may place an advertisement in the newspaper or a magazine. They can also use the television and radio airwaves for this purpose.

Plaintiffs are required to inform people of the reason the class action lawsuit has been filed. It must name the people involved and offer them information on how they can contact the attorneys.

Going to Trial or Agreeing to a Settlement

After the consumer class action lawsuit has been certified, it can proceed. After the trial is over, the defendant will be determined to be liable or not for the plaintiffs’ injuries. In the case that the plaintiffs prevail, the court will determine how much they will be entitled to receive from the defendant. In some cases, the parties come to an agreement and the defendants offer the plaintiffs a settlement.

In the case of a class action settlement, the parties in question will meet outside of the courtroom to work out an agreement. This will be likely when the plaintiffs are most concerned about receiving fair compensation for the damage they suffered due to the defendant’s product. If the agreement is deemed to be fair to everyone involved, the parties can avoid a court trial.

Christine James is writing for Golomb and Honik, P.C, a boutique law firm specializing in commercial and consumer litigation, class action litigation, personal injury law, and medical malpractice law.

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