A class action is a type of lawsuit that is very different from a standard personal injury or insurance case. While litigation is often stressful, the stakes in a class-action lawsuit are at a different level.
In many class-action lawsuits, the interests of hundreds if not thousands of people are at stake.
Most class actions involve claims against well-financed corporations that are dead set on limiting their financial exposure and preventing a class action from going forward.
The class action and mass tort lawyers at The BFH Law Group are dedicated to maximizing damages for the victims of corporate fraud and malfeasance.
Characteristics of a Class Action
Sometimes people do not realize that their claim could be part of a class action or that a class has already been created. If you have a potential class action claim you may ask, “why should I be part of a class action”.
Wouldn’t I be better served filing a case on my own?” These are valid and important questions. In many cases, a class action is the only way to fight a corporation that has abused or exploited others.
The common theme for a class action is there are a lot of people who have similar legal problems. While each person’s case is important, sometimes the costs of bringing a single claim outweigh the cost of Because of that it may make sense to combine all claims into one case. That way a lot of the work can be consolidated in a single case.
Before a class action can go forward it must first be certified by a judge. To certify a class action, a judge will first consider:
- Do the members of the class have similar injuries?
- Can the members of the class be easily identified?
- There are common facts and injuries amongst the class.
- There are a large enough number of class members.
If any of the above four items do not exist, a court will probably not certify the case as a class and force each person to pursue a case individually.
One of the benefits of a class-action is efficiency. A class action allows many of the time-consuming issues in a case to be consolidated and handled together. It saves time, money, and judicial resources.
Certification of a class action is not always easy. Defendants in a potential class-action normally fight hard to prevent class certification because many individuals will not file a lawsuit as an individual if certification is denied.
To obtain class certification, you need to not only show that people have similar injuries, but also that the case involved a common set of facts.
Once a class action is certified, the parties can proceed to discovery. Discovery is the process of gathering documents, testimony, and information needed to support a case. One of the major benefits of a class action is that discovery takes place in a single case instead of hundreds or even thousands of individual cases.
Who Brings a Class Action?
Class actions normally involve hundreds or even thousands of individuals. However, it starts with a single class representative who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
There are lucrative financial incentives for being named as the lead plaintiff in a class action. This is not necessarily an easy position. A class representative owes several duties to the members of the class including:
- Remaining involved in the progress of the lawsuit.
- Reviewing the complaint and other pleadings.
- Staying in touch with the class’ attorneys about the progress of the case.
- Represent the best interests of the entire class.
- Providing notice to the class of developments in the case.
- Agree to settle the case.
- Providing notice of settlement to give other class members the choice to opt-out.
The lead plaintiff has an awesome responsibility to ensure that the case is prosecuted by the class’s attorneys and that a resolution to the case is in the best interests of the entire class.
Class members are not required to accept the settlement agreed to by the lead plaintiff. The lead plaintiff is required to provide you with notice that the case has settled. You may opt-out of the class-action lawsuit on pursuing a claim on your own.
When Should You Opt-Out?
You should opt-out of the class action when it is not in your financial interest to remain. This is a decision that only you can make. In most cases, if your damages are not all that significant, you may have a hard time finding an attorney to represent you in the class action.
A good example of when it would make sense to opt-out would be if you have damages that are not addressed by the class action. Let’s say you purchased and installed defective smoke alarms in your home.
A class action may be initiated regarding the defective smoke alarms that included thousands of class members. If your house burned down because of the defective smoke alarm, it would make a lot of sense to opt our because your likely recovery in a personal lawsuit will be many times greater than what a class action settlement will payout.
Protecting the Rights of Consumers
Some class actions become national cases with wide-reaching implications that are settled for large sums of money. However, not all class actions about money. There are many other class actions that address harms at the local level.
For example, a case may be filed by local residents who have suffered damages because a corporation has illegally dumped toxins. Class action lawsuit have helped millions of people not only recover compensation for wrongs. They have also played a significant role in making our products safer.
What are the Benefits of a Class Action?
Class actions are often lambasted by critics who claim that they are unnecessary. Many of these criticisms are frankly misplaced. Class actions have played an integral role in ensuring that the products we use are safe.
There have been numerous class actions in which large sums of money were recovered by individuals who had been defrauded by financial institutions. Without class actions, millions of individuals would not have recovered compensation for their damages.
Just as important, corporations would not have been held accountable for their bad actions. A class action is one of a few ways consumers can level the playing field.
Types of Class Actions
There are many types of class actions. Some involve hundreds or thousands of individuals. Others involve a smaller group of people dealing with similar problems.
- Consumer Class Actions: People who have lost money or otherwise been harmed by unfair, deceptive and misleading business practices can have recourse for damages. These claims include excessive or unfair charges and breaches of contract. Examples of these types of class actions may include defective goods sold in large quantity to the public.
- Insurance Fraud Class Actions: People who have been overcharged for insurance or otherwise defrauded or misled by an insurance company may band together to file a class action claim. Insurance class actions tend to involve widescale policies implemented by insurance companies that violate policyholders’ rights.
- Toxic Exposures: Exposure to harmful substances such as asbestos and lead can impact numerous individuals. In some cases, a group or class of people may band together to pursue claims they have against a defendant.
- Environmental Class Actions: People who have sustained property damage or illnesses due to another’s malfeasance may band together to file suit.
- Securities and Antitrust Class Actions: These cases involve complex business issues such as securities fraud and antitrust violations.
- Predatory Lending and Mortgage Fraud Class Actions: Banks and lenders that engage in predatory and deceptive lending practices have been sued and forced to pay compensation.
What is a Mass Tort?
A mass tort is similar to a class action. When large numbers of people are injured by a product – for example, a drug or medical device – they all have claims against the same manufacturer but tend to have unique issues and different damages. However, most all of the other issues in the case are similar.
When the public learns that a product is defective, large volumes of lawsuits often follow. In these situations, many of the cases around the United States are consolidated into a single court where most of the work on the case is completed.
The process of consolidating these cases into a single court is called multi-district litigation. This avoids having duplicative work tying up courts throughout the United States while allowing the defendants to evaluate their total exposure in the case.
The court will eventually set some of the individual cases for what are called bellwether trials. If the plaintiffs are successful in these trials, the defendants normally begin settling the other cases instead of continuing to litigate them.
Current major mass tort cases include:
- hip implants (Styker, DuPey, Biomet)
- knee replacements (OtisKnee, Zimmer)
- Mirena IUD
- vaginal & bladder mesh (Bard, Caldera, Tyco)
- among others
Louisiana Class Action Laws
In Louisiana federal and state courts there are three basic requirements to file a class action suit: numerosity, commonality, and fairness to the class. To file a case in federal court, you need either diversity jurisdiction or an issue of federal law. Cases that cannot qualify for federal court jurisdiction, must be filed in state court.
Article 591 of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure provides additional reasons why cases should be brought as a class action. These reasons address some of the potential legal problems caused from not filing certain cases as a class action.
- Inconsistent or varying outcomes of similar cases.
- Outcomes in some cases that would impact other people’s cases.
- Need for injunctive relief or court order in favor of an entire class of people.
- Need to have a case consolidated in a court so the case can be more easily managed.
How Can We Help?
You may feel that you have been harmed by a corporation or been injured by a defective product. If this is the case, you should speak with a New Orleans class action attorney to discuss your rights. You may be entitled to compensation or other judicial relief.
The attorneys at The BFH Law Group are dedicated to assisting individuals who have been harmed or defrauded by others. We offer free consultations and will investigate the circumstances of your claim for no charge. Our law firm takes cases on contingency. In other words, you will not owe us a fee unless we recover money for you.