A class action lawsuit permits the claims of a large number of people to be litigated in one case. In many instances, the damages of the individual plaintiff are too small to warrant filing an individual claim, and only through a group action can the issue be heard in a court of law.
One name plaintiff, or a small group of named plaintiffs, brings an action representing other, unnamed plaintiffs, with a similar legal grievance. The judge in the case must certify the case to allow it to proceed as a class action. If it is not certified, it proceeds as an individual case. If certified, the unnamed plaintiffs can elect to opt out and pursue individual remedies or drop the case entirely. If the unnamed plaintiffs remain in the class, they are bound by the settlement or final ruling in the case.
Factors Involved in Certification
The court considers many factors, primary of which are:
• Numerosity; is there a sufficient number of potential plaintiffs?
• Commonality; is there a common legal or factual basis for the claims?
• Typicality; is the named plaintiff’s claim similar to those of the class?
• Adequacy; is the legal team in place for the class prepared and able to provide legal representation for the class?
Common Class Action Cases
Areas in which large numbers of people have been injured include:
• Product liability cases
• Securities or investment fraud cases
• Employment cases involving companies that employ large numbers of people
• Consumer class actions involving, for example, a utility company overcharging for services