In litigation situation, there may be more than one party affected. It is not uncommon for a case to involve multiple plaintiffs and/or multiple defendants. There is a special name for cases where with multiple plaintiff’s: Class Action.
A class action lawsuit occurs when more than one person with a similar “injury” file a lawsuit against a person or entity. The injury does not necessarily have to be physical, it can also be financial. Common class action categories include injury from a defective product (products liability), breach of contract, securities fraud, and employment discrimination. The individuals who initiate the lawsuit or typically called the lead plaintiffs. However, for a case to from being a general civil lawsuit to a class action lawsuit, a court must certify the case as such. The requirements for a case to become a class action lawsuit include a large group of people with similar injury related to case facts and law, the lead plaintiff(s) can adequately represent the class, and there are no conflicts.
The people, other than the lead plaintiff(s), who are injured and therefore responsible for filing the lawsuit, are known as the class members. Class members do not have the same participation as a lead plaintiff. For example, they likely will not have a day in whether to reject or accept a settlement offer. Once a class is established, the members of the class will receive a notice advising them of the lawsuit. You may not even know you are a member of a class until you receive a notice. There have been several occasions where I’ve received a notice that I am a member of the class in a class action case brought against some corporation responsible for a product I bought.
If you are given notice that you are a member of a class action lawsuit, you are likely automatically considered to be a member of the class unless you opt-out. If you opt out of the class, then you are not entitled to any winnings in the case. However, this does not preclude you from brining your own case against the person or entity. If you decide to remain a member of the class, then you are bound by any settlement or other outcome of the case. For example, if the class loses the lawsuit, you cannot then turn around and sue the same company for the same injury on your own. Therefore, if you decide to remain a member, you may wish to seek independent legal counsel to help protect your interests in the matter.
If the plaintiffs win the lawsuit, then the monetary reward could be handle different ways. The reward will either be divided equally among all class members, or according to a different structure determined by the court. In most cases, the lead plaintiff will be awarded more, based on their participation in the lawsuit, and the rest of the reward is divided evenly among the rest of the class after attorney’s fees and costs are paid.
Since class action cases involve civil matters, they can typically be found in a state court of general jurisdiction. Some states may have special courts or division that handle class action cases, especially when considering that these cases can involve thousands of people and take several years to settle. Class action cases can also be found in Federal Courts. Since the passing of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, it is easier for defendants to move their cases to Federal Courts, which they tend to prefer. This Act grants jurisdiction to Federal Courts for class action cases for claims over $5 million or cases where at least one plaintiff resides in a different state from at least one defendant.
To find access to court records related to class action cases, legal research resources, or even attorney referrals, visit CourtReference.com. Here you can find court related resources organized by state and county.