Class action lawsuits are potent tools in the legal system, allowing hundreds, thousands, or millions of individuals to sue together. However, these suits can also pose unique challenges to plaintiffs and defendants.
In particular, class action lawyers must have the competence, experience, and resources to handle these cases effectively.
What is a Class Action?
A class action is a lawsuit by a group with similar legal claims. A few named or lead plaintiffs submit a lawsuit for an unnamed group of thousands who share a common legal grievance.
The lead plaintiffs are usually individuals who the defendant’s actions have harmed. They may have suffered injury, financial loss, or both in a similar way as the others in the class. During the discovery process, attorneys investigating a class action can request documents and conduct depositions of individuals who know what happened.
All group members must be notified if the court certifies a class action. This is done by distributing or publishing a notice in appropriate media outlets. The notice usually contains information about the lawsuit and how to opt in or out. Those who do not wish to be part of the class action should notify the court in a specified timeframe, known as the opt-out period.
When a class action lawsuit is successful, money is distributed among the class members. This may involve punitive damages to hold the defendant accountable for careless actions or compensatory damages meant to restore the affected class members to total health.
What is the Anatomy of a Class Action Investigation?
Class action investigations are lawsuits brought by an attorney on behalf of one or more potential plaintiffs affected by the same legal issue. These investigations are typically run by companies that specialize in helping attorneys find potential class members and help them secure compensation for their injuries or losses.
Unlike individual litigation, where an attorney might bill clients hourly for their time and cover upfront expenses, class action attorneys usually work on a contingent fee basis. This means that the lead/representative plaintiff (or, in the case of a Canadian class action, the class representatives) and the rest of the class members do not owe the attorneys any money out-of-pocket to start or finish the litigation. Instead, the attorneys are paid a percentage of the overall recovery obtained for the class.
Identifying potential plaintiffs can be challenging. Attorneys must balance the requirements of Rule 23 and their ethical obligations when seeking out potential named plaintiffs. For example, Rule 23 requires that a plaintiff’s claims be “typical” of the claims of the class. This requires a thorough investigation of the claim and a frank discussion with the prospective plaintiff to make sure that they understand their obligations and can effectively represent the interests of the class.
What is the Process of a Class Action Investigation?
Class action litigation is a valuable part of our legal system. It allows people with legitimate claims to aggregate their claims into one case and sue on behalf of themselves and the rest of the class. Class actions can be filed on several issues, including illegal hiring and salary practices, dangerous drugs or products, environmental or health concerns, or financial fraud. Attorneys who work on class action cases usually work on a contingency basis, meaning they do not charge their clients any fees upfront unless they recover money for them.
Unlike regular individual litigation, in class action cases, lawyers must use specific methods to identify potential plaintiffs eligible for the lawsuit. This is because a class action involves multiple claimants, and each person must be able to meet the requirements of Federal Rule 23 (relating to the choice of lead plaintiffs).
Lawyers working on class action cases will typically conduct online research or send out mass mailings to individuals who are potential class members. In addition, they may also work with organizations that have an interest in the case and can refer individuals who are eligible to participate. This can include labor unions, nonprofit advocacy groups, community groups, professional associations, or tenant and homeowners’ groups.
Suppose someone files an individual complaint between when a class complaint is filed and when a final certification decision is issued. In that case, the judge will determine whether their claims are identical to those presented in the class complaint. Then, the judge will decide if they can join the class action and their responsibilities as a class member.
What is the Goal of a Class Action Investigation?
When attorneys run a class action investigation, they look for people who have experienced harm from similar events. These investigations are conducted by attorneys working on contingency, meaning they will only collect a fee if the lawsuit is successful and will charge no fees if the case is unsuccessful. This is because a certain number of people must be involved in the class for the lawsuit to be certified by a judge and for proceedings to begin.
After a hearing, the judge certifies a class action in which counsel for the class representative(s) and defendant(s) present arguments and occasionally call witnesses to aid in the decision-making process. The goal of the hearing is to ensure that each class member has been adequately represented.
However, it is essential to consider the disadvantages of class actions before deciding whether to join one. Among these is the risk that if the class representative(s) do not effectively argue their cases or have strong claims, the legitimate claims of other class members may be hurt. Additionally, a class action can be time-consuming and expensive. The court system must also consider the impact that the litigation could have on the overall operation of the court system.