Brush Up on the Basics: What Is a Class Action Lawsuit

You might have heard of lawsuits converted into class-action lawsuits. But, what does that really mean? Are they different from individual lawsuits and MDL (multidistrict litigations)? Let’s find out.

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

To explain in simple words, any case filed by a group against the same defendant is considered a class action lawsuit.

Individual cases are at times turned into a class action lawsuit when the court starts to receive a multitude of cases defining the same injuries after using a product for a prolonged period.

This usually happens in case of medical malpractice or defective products. For instance, serious side effects of a prescription can lead to a class-action lawsuit against the medicine manufacturer.

 When Are Class Action Lawsuits Suitable?

Class action lawsuits are suitable for cases when:

  • A large number of people suffered from similar injuries
  • The damages suffered by plaintiffs are minimal
  • The number of court cases dealing with similar situations rises up demanding small claims but in large numbers

Defendants in Class Action Lawsuits

Usually, this type of lawsuit is filed against big and large organizations serving a wide number of populations with their products or services. When any product or service is claimed to be damaged, defective, or faulty, there is a rise in lawsuits against them.

These lawsuits focus on similar allegations like false advertising, serious complications or side effects, defective products, failure to warn, unlawful employment practices, and such.

The defendants primarily involved in class action lawsuits include manufacturers, government organizations, financial institutions, retailers, enterprises, and employers.

How Do Class Action Lawsuits Work?

To understand how these lawsuits work, it is essential to know some of the terms associated with them:

  • Class members

Class members refer to all the plaintiffs that are part of the class-action lawsuit.

  • Lead plaintiff

An attorney of one of the plaintiffs that acts as the representative of all the class members in a class-action lawsuit is known as the lead plaintiff. He is the one who leads the case on behalf of all other plaintiffs that suffered from similar damages.

  • Class identification

If you are the one starting a class action lawsuit, you need to find plaintiffs who experienced similar complications and damages as alleged in your case.

When you submit the list of the class members, the judge first identifies the validation of the class members. The judge makes sure that the allegations of all the class members identified are suitable to be dealt with and put together in a class action.

  • Class certification

The judge, after proper justification, if deemed fit, provides class certification. This means that the class members identified are fit to be put under a class action lawsuit.

It is after class certification a class action lawsuit can proceed. Also, all the plaintiffs classified as class members are notified through mail. They can choose to opt out after following a specified procedure.

All this is involved if you are starting a new class-action lawsuit. If there is already a class-action lawsuit filed similar to your case, you can be a part of it (i.e. an existing class action lawsuit) after taking the help of a suitable attorney.

Class Action Lawsuits Vs. Multidistrict Litigations

Class action lawsuits and MDL are often confused one for another. These both are a lot similar and yet different. There is a thin line between class action lawsuits and MDL.

Where in a class-action lawsuit, single lawsuits are filed on behalf of a large number of people. MDL comes after class-action lawsuits. When several courts in a district see a rise in a particular type of individual lawsuits, these all are put together and handled by a single federal court and said to put in multi-district litigation. This is done to provide dedicated decision-making on the lawsuits.

Also, these lawsuits provide plaintiffs with the power to sue large and powerful organizations, which may otherwise be impossible for an individual plaintiff. A class-action lawsuit with its group power acts as a powerful weapon to go against big defendants.

MDL can also be considered as one of the types of class action lawsuits.

State and Federal Court Class Action Lawsuits

Class action lawsuits can be filed in the state as well as federal courts. A state class action can be moved to a federal court under specific circumstances only. These include:

  • Damages should exceed $5 million
  • There should be at least 100 plaintiffs in a class action
  • At least one person from the plaintiff side and one person from the defendant side should be citizens of different countries or states.

To learn more about class action lawsuits, contact us today.