A class action lawsuit is complicated. There are a number of moving parts. Normal litigation is tricky, and if you layer that with numerous plaintiffs and a potentially very powerful defendant, then it becomes exponentially more complicated. The lawyers at Smiley Law Firm currently represent groups of clients that have been injured by others, as the result of such malfeasance as dangerous products and environmental damage.
Despite these complexities, class action lawsuits are typically designed to make the legal system more efficient. They can help even those with small claims to receive justice for the harm they have suffered. As a result, a person or family who might otherwise have no opportunity to receive compensation have access to some proceeds from this large-scale legal action.
This is a detailed overview of what a class action is, how you might benefit from joining a class, and why an attorney is the best source of information about your legal rights and options. You might be surprised to learn that you are entitled to seek recourse through the legal system and a class action attorney can be an effective guide regardless of your circumstances.
A class action is a specific type of lawsuit. In the event that multiple parties, perhaps hundreds or thousands, have suffered the same harm as the result of the alleged actions of the defendant, a court may decide their claims can be heard all at once. Typically, one or two plaintiffs represent the entire class, but if the suit is successful, everyone who is a member of the class may be eligible to receive damages.
In order for a court to agree to a class action, a judge must decide that the argument of each of the individual plaintiffs is similar enough that one or two plaintiffs can equally represent their interests. Everyone who has a potential claim is not necessarily part of the class action unless they chose; often, some individuals may retain their right to sue separately from the class. If they take this option, they cannot receive any of the damages awarded to the class.
Class action lawsuits in Louisiana, Texas, California and the United States have been popularized — and sometimes demonized — by modern media. These types of suits were created specifically for instances where there are so many parties involved that it would be impractical or impossible for each case to exist on its own. Common class action lawsuits involve cases like injuries from toxic substances like asbestos or mesothelioma.
Most class action lawsuits are national and can even have world-wide ramifications. That is because, often, the harm that is caused by crossing state borders. In the case of multi-national corporations who have acted in a similar way in different countries, U.S. class action lawsuits can be helpful precedents for people seeking justice internationally. It may also be motivation for the company to change its behavior to avoid further lawsuits.
Regardless of the scope of the litigation, it is important to find a local attorney in Louisiana, Texas, or California to help you with the claim. If joining a class action is right for you, then the local attorney can reach out to the lawsuit lead counsel to make sure that your claim is properly documented and your rights preserved. If it is not your best legal option, your attorney can advise you on other ways you can recoup some of the losses you have suffered. Just because a class action is ongoing does not mean it is your only route to achieve justice.
Often, class actions involve large-scale or repeated behavior on the part of one company or individual. However, everyone who has suffered harm may not have the time or desire to put into an individual lawsuit. By joining a class action, they can get the litigation result they deserve without having to take on the full burden of a lawsuit.
In addition, while some people have suffered great harm, other people’s damages might be quite small. Outside of a class action, an individual lawsuit may not be worth the effort, as court costs and investigation expenses may be more than the amount of a reward. However, that doesn’t mean the defendant should get away with harmful activity. A class action holds the plaintiff to account and gets everyone compensation for what they have experienced.
There are many steps to a class action. Perhaps the biggest difference is the request from the initial one or two plaintiffs that everyone be certified as a class. Once a judge decides that everyone who has suffered harm would have a claim with the same cause of action against the defendant, the case may proceed to class certification. When the class is certified, the lawsuit proceeds in a similar way to individual litigation.
Class certification is a practical process; it is designed to maximize court efficiency while allowing for some justice to flow to those who have experienced harm. Specifically, the general criteria for class certification are as follows:
Once a class is certified, potential class members are notified through public notices and other media. They have the choice to opt-in or opt-out of the class action. If they opt-in, they may receive some part of any potential settlement once litigation concludes and if the plaintiff is successful. If they opt-out, they are not entitled to damages from this suit but retain the right to sue individually if they so choose.
In some cases, it is too hard to identify potential claimants before the case begins. Therefore, at the end of a lawsuit where a defendant has been found liable, a court may order that a fund be created for victims who can prove their entitlement to part of the proceeds of the action. For that reason, it’s always a good idea for someone who has suffered an injury to speak to a class action lawyer even if litigation has already started.
Class action suits can be brought in both State and Federal Courts. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23 and 28 outline the framework for this type of proceeding. In order to bring any claim in federal court, there must be diversity or federal question jurisdiction.
Louisiana models its class action after the Federal statutes and it is codified in Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 591 et seq. As described in detail above, these types of lawsuit require numerosity, commonality, and fairness to the class elements before the class is certified.
Louisiana, Texas, and California class action lawsuit attorneys at the Smiley Law Firm are approached by claimants all the time asking if their issue is worthy of starting a class action. Or they ask if they can join up with a current class action lawsuit. The answer always depends on the individual facts of the situation.
Some attorneys are class action happy but do not realize that their client may be better served by bringing an individual claim rather than instituting a class. Although class action suits happen all the time, it is a very complex type of case to initiate due to all of the procedural formalities.
A class action may seem like a big effort, or perhaps an example of litigation gone out of control. In fact, it is the opposite. By combining hundreds, or thousands, of potential lawsuits into one, class action claims save resources of the legal system. They also ensure that those whose cases are quite small are nonetheless heard, and a defendant has the opportunity to either justify a particular action (or inaction) or be held to account for the harm that has flowed from it.
In addition to providing for justice for those who have experienced loss, a class action can have a deterrent effect. When a large company is held responsible for a defective product, toxic materials, or environmental damage, it hurts that company’s reputation and stock value. It also sends a message to other large entities that similar behavior will not be tolerated. It will not just be a black mark on the corporate name, but a big hit to their cash flow if they are ordered to pay damages.
Because class action lawsuits can be particularly complex, due to the subject matter they typically cover, experienced lawyers are often at the helm of the proceedings. This also helps plaintiffs, who, if left on their own, might not have access to legal representation whose area of expertise is their particular type of injury.
Class action lawsuits take time. So do individual lawsuits. The main benefit for class members is to get some compensation for harm, without having to appear in court or necessarily provide evidence. For the plaintiffs who represent the class, the level of involvement in the day-to-day aspects of the litigation may be greater, but they also have the benefit of acting in a just process that invites an impartial body — a court — to weigh in on a case in a public forum. There’s no charge to join a class action, so it makes sense for most class members who do not want to sue individually.
By speaking with an attorney, you can get help to decide the best course of action given your specific situation. In some cases, that may be to join an existing class action lawsuit or to make a claim on an existing fund that has been created as the result of a concluded class proceeding.
However, you may also benefit from filing an individual lawsuit. It may be that your circumstances are so different from other members of the class, or that your harm so much more severe, that joining existing litigation just isn’t right for you. That depends a lot on how the law applies to your case, and what steps you want to take to achieve the results you want.
Smiley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in class action lawsuits, but also in individual personal injury cases. By speaking with us, you can have an idea of what the process is like and how we may be able to help you. As your attorneys, our role is to represent you and your best interests — not further our own agenda. Talk to us to see if it’s a fit.
Smiley Law Firm represented a number of claimants in the Chinese Drywall Class Action MDL, BP Oil Spill claimants, along with claimants in class actions ranging from the Dupuy Medical Hip class action to the BarBri antitrust class action suit. Getting a claim into a class action suit early is important, but you are always welcome to contact us to learn about all of your legal options.