A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit where many people have the same injury or the same types of damages, and they all join together to sue the party responsible as a group.
Class action lawsuits are used when one party has wronged lots of people. Common examples include defective products, dangerous medications, and negligent business decisions that harmed many people over time. When the people who were injured — the plaintiffs — join together in a class action lawsuit, it allows them to reduce legal expenses and, in many cases, improve the chances of each individual person getting a successful verdict or settlement.
Most class action lawsuits are against businesses, because they produce products that are used widely and cause damages or injuries to many consumers. But they can also be against the government or, in rare cases, against private individuals.
Dozens, hundreds or even thousands of plaintiffs may join together in a class action lawsuit. These plaintiffs are, together, known as a “class” of people — hence the name class action lawsuit.
How Does a Class Action Lawsuit Start?
Class action lawsuits begin when it becomes apparent that lots of people all suffered the the same (or similar) damages. This can be because an investigative journalist breaks open a scandal and it becomes national news, or it can happen when a government investigation like the FDA announces a recall on some kind of product. Other times it’s not as obvious, and it starts when individual people with injuries start researching their legal options.
Often, at the start of the process, there’s no “hard” proof that the plaintiffs have a valid claim. It may take months of work from attorneys researching and investigating the cause. During this period, there may already be individual lawsuits filed against the party who is liable (the defendant).
If enough plaintiffs come forward, their attorneys may decide it’s best to consolidate their cases into a class action.
How Does the Class Action Lawsuit Process Work?
Attorneys representing multiple individual cases will file the papers necessary to do so with the courts. Generally, they will need to decide one single jurisdiction whose courts will hear the case for everyone involved, even if not all of the plaintiffs live in that jurisdiction.
Under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, it’s also possible to move a case from state courts to federal courts if it is large enough.
There must then be an option to “opt in.” In other words, as more people find out about the class action, more people who have valid claims will come forward. They must have a way to “opt in” and join the class action too.
Finally, the courts will hear the case and decide it like normal. But any verdict or settlement will award damages to all of the plaintiffs. This may mean each person gets a percentage, or that they get a fixed amount. In less common cases, the amount may be different for each person based on their damages.
What if I Think I Have a Claim for a Class Action Lawsuit?
You need to talk with a class action lawsuit attorney immediately. Not all lawyers have experience with class action lawsuits, but those who know the process can help you decide if you have a valid claim and, if need be, help find other people who would have similar claims.
At John Foy & Associates, we have over 20 years of experience representing those who were injured — and we KNOW how to win class action lawsuits. For a FREE consultation to discuss your case and your options, contact us today. Call 404-400-4000, or complete the form to your right to get started today with a free consultation.