A class action lawsuit is a legal action where a group of people collectively file a lawsuit against a common defendant or defendants. This type of lawsuit is commonly used for cases where there are multiple victims of the same wrongdoing, such as consumer protection violations, securities fraud, and mass torts. With a class action lawsuit, individuals with similar claims can pool their resources to seek justice and potentially receive a better outcome than they would have had they pursued litigation on their own.
The process of a class action lawsuit begins with a plaintiff, or group of plaintiffs, who file a lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other individuals who have suffered similar injuries or damages. A judge must certify the case as a class action, which requires a showing that there are common issues of law and fact among the members of the putative class, and that the class action mechanism is the most efficient and fair way to resolve the claims.
Once certified, the plaintiffs become the representatives of the class of similarly situated individuals, who are referred to as class members. Class members are typically notified of the lawsuit and given an opportunity to opt-out or remove themselves from the lawsuit. Opting out means that the class member chooses not to participate in the lawsuit, and in doing so, agrees to not receive any benefits the lawsuit may provide.
During the course of the lawsuit, all members of the class are bound by any rulings or decisions made by the court, and they have little to no input in the litigation as individuals. However, they do have the right to object and opt-out of the settlement agreement or any agreement reached by the parties.
If the lawsuit is successful, the damages awarded are divided among the class members in proportion to their individual losses. The court may also award attorneys’ fees and costs based on the settlement or judgment, which will be paid from the recovery for the class members as a whole.
Class actions can be disadvantageous for defendants since they increase their exposure to liability and may require significant resources to defend against. However, class actions can also be used as a tool by corporations to efficiently resolve a large number of claims. This use of class action lawsuits has led to criticism that they are being used to limit access to the courts for individual plaintiffs.
In summary, a class action lawsuit is a legal strategy that enables a group of people to collectively seek damages for a common wrongdoing. Class actions can provide a mechanism of efficiency and fairness in cases where many individuals suffer the same injury or harm. However, they can also be complex and contentious, and it is important that individuals understand the potential risks and benefits before joining or opting-out of a class action lawsuit.