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A Primer on Class Action Lawsuits

Want to learn how to file a class action lawsuit? First, make sure you understand what a class action lawsuit is.

Class actions lawsuits allow many people to bring small identical claims to court and have their issue be decided in a single legal proceeding.

Bringing parties together into one class action lawsuit avoids the necessity for a large number of individual lawsuits and allows our judicial system to resolve similar claims more efficiently. In additon, from each participating individual's perspective, the claim is small and would not be worth pursuing in court if there were not other plaintiffs. As such, class action lawsuits allow claims to be pursued that might otherwise go unaddressed.

You don't have to find everyone who could participate in the class action lawsuit before a class action is filed. A representative plaintiff can file the lawsuit.

However, you can't simply file a class action lawsuit and automatically have it be settled or come to court. The Court must approve the class definition, either during litigation or at the time of settlement.

Plaintiffs' counsel in class action suits usually operate on a contingency fee basis. Fees and costs paid to them are usually subject to court approval. Class action proceedings are often subject to abuse if unscrupulous lawyers are involved. It's not unusual for lawyers to do very well on a class action suit while plaintiffs get very little. Nonetheless, class action suits are an important part of our system in that they protect individuals from bad actions by large companies or organizations.

When considering whether to file a class action lawsuit, you need to consider a number of factors:

  • Can the proposed class be easily defined?
  • Is the number of class members sufficiently numerous?
  • Do common legal and factual issues exist?
  • Do legal and factual issues for the class predominate over individual issues?
  • Is your claim typical of other class members?
  • Can you adequately represent the class?
  • Is a class action is superior to other methods of managing the litigation?

Remember, not all cases are appropriate for class action. The Court will consider many things in determining whether to approve your use of the class action device as opposed to requiring you to file an individual action.

The smartest move you can make is to consult with a class action attorney who is qualified and sufficiently experienced in class action litigation. If they see merit in your claim, they will also see money in your claim. They won't recommend that you proceed unless the see both merit and money in the case.


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