What is a class action?
A class action is a legal device allowing one person to sue as a plaintiff on behalf of all persons likely to have experienced the same injury. Class actions are often brought against corporations, such as telephone companies and credit card banks, when they overcharge or otherwise mistreat many customers in the same way. They are brought against the manufacturers of defective products. They may also be brought against a company or its officers on behalf of a class of shareholders in the company. Examples include:
- thousands of consumers purchase or use the same defective product;
- a telephone company or credit card bank overcharges thousands of customers pursuant to the same policy;
- employees experience age, sex or race discrimination;
- a drug or medicine used by many patients is suspected of having dangerous side effects;
- purchasers of a company’s stock or securities are injured because the company made fraudulent representations about its products or business prospects;
- consumers pay higher prices because of the anti-trust activities of large corporations;
What are the benefits of a class action?
The class action promotes two principal goals. It provides a useful mechanism for prosecuting the claims of many persons whose injuries added together are significant, but which, individually, would not be large enough to justify the expense of bringing of individual lawsuits. It also prevents the clogging of the court system by allowing the similar claims of thousands of individuals to be adjudicated in one single action.
Can any case against a business be brought as a class action?
No. Generally, a class action is proper only where the issues common to the class outweigh the issues which are unique to individual members of the class. When a consumer or investor approaches Green & Noblin, P.C. with a possible case, its attorneys make a preliminary determination as to the merits of filing a class action. Then, after the case is filed, the court determines whether it fulfills all the requirements of a class action, and whether the defined class may be “certified.”
Does the plaintiff have to pay the attorneys’ fees and legal expenses?
Green & Noblin, P.C. advances the expenses of the litigation at no cost to the plaintiff and class members, and obtains its attorneys’ fees and expenses from the money paid by the defendant at the successful conclusion of the case. Even then, the court must approve the firm’s fees as reasonable in light of the benefit obtained for the class.
Are all class members forced to participate in the class action?
Generally, No. In most consumer and investor class actions, after the court certifies the case as a class action, members of the defined class are given an opportunity to “opt out” and pursue individual actions against the defendant, if they so prefer. If, however, class members choose not to opt out, they are bound to the results of the case and automatically share in any recovery obtained for the class. There are exceptions to this general rule, such as when the relief sought is primarily injunctive and not monetary, where the court may certify the class on a “non-opt-out” basis.
The attorneys of Green & Noblin, P.C. will be glad to answer any additional questions you may have. Please contact us.