There are many misconceptions about what class actions are and what they can accomplish. Class-action litigation is when a group of people, or a “class,” brings a lawsuit as a single group, against one or more defendants. A class-action lawsuit is beneficial to the “class” of people bringing the suit, because it lowers the individual costs of a lawsuit and benefits more people at one time in the event of a favorable decision.
In many class actions, the actual financial or other injury may be too small for one person to take on a large defendant or group of defendants, thereby making the lawsuit not worth filing for one person, due to the time and expense involved in litigation. However, when several people suffer the same financial or other injury, a class-action lawyer can be of great assistance in presenting a claim. Therefore, most class-action claims involve a large corporation or business taking advantage of large groups of individuals. Further, membership in a class costs nothing. In class-action litigation, your attorney is only paid if he or she is successful in the claim.
If you think you have a class action, we at First Law Strategy can help you analyze if a case exists, and the best way to present that case to a judge or jury.
Because of the power of big business and their national or even global reach, one individual suing a company may have little chance of winning. In these one-sided situations, a class action can level the playing field so that the class of individuals can band together in pursuit of a common goal that cannot be easily overcome by the defendant.
The courts created class-action lawsuits to advance public policy goals and protect those people who would otherwise be silenced by defendants due to the relatively “small” size of their harm and the relatively expensive cost of filing a single lawsuit. A class action is one way that those who have been injured or manipulated are able to remedy the injustices of powerful million-dollar corporations.
Class-action lawsuits may involve defective products, pharmaceuticals or prescription drugs that have endangered, hurt or killed people. They may also involve unfair, deceptive or misleading consumer practices, data breaches, unfair insurance practices and other corporate misconduct. Employment-related class actions may be filed when a company violates rules meant to protect its employees and ensure they receive the proper wages for their work. No matter the cause of the harm, victims deserve justice, and they gain power when they join to make the wrongdoer take responsibility.
Class actions are as varied as traditional liability suits, but they differ because of the sheer number of people who have been harmed by one product or act of the defendant. There are many situations where class action lawsuits make more sense than traditional lawsuits. A few examples are:
When corporations conspire to fix prices, they are cheating the system. When corporations inflate costs for small businesses and consumers, those businesses and consumers may file a class-action lawsuit against the price fixers.
When a corporation records private communication without the knowledge or consent of its consumers or employees, the group whose privacy was breached may sue the corporation.
When many homes or businesses are affected by an environmental disaster (such as an oil spill or hurricane), they may come together to sue the oil company or negligent insurance providers. Similarly, entire neighborhoods, towns and counties may be the victims of years’ worth of environmental dumping, neglect or simply failure to clean up the area by one or more companies. Those residents affected may bring a case as a class action to seek relief for their neighbors.
Patients who took a prescription drug that had dangerous side effects, and the manufacturer knew of these side hazards but failed to warn the public, may begin a class action lawsuit if they were injured as a result of the medication.
Whether a group bought the same defective product or were manipulated by false advertising, when a large group of consumers are deceived by businesses, they may have a case. Together they can sue the business that engaged in manipulative business practices. These cases are traditionally known as “consumer protection” lawsuits.
When a company collects your data without your permission and sells it for profit, those people whose data has been collected without their knowledge may have a case against the company. Worse yet, when a company that has permission to collect your data loses the data, for whatever reason, and your personal information becomes public, everyone whose data has been made public may have a claim against the company who failed to properly secure your data.
If executives of a publicly traded company commit securities fraud, causing investors to lose their savings, the group of people who lost their savings can sue the executives or the corporation through class action litigation.
In cases of racial, gender or age discrimination, it is rare that a business or corporation has only violated the rights of one employee. Those employees who suffered discrimination can file a lawsuit against the business that discriminated against them.