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Class Action Law

A Class Action is a representative action wherein one or more plaintiffs brings a case against a company or organization whose actions have inflicted damages upon a group of people in a similar way. A single person (class proponent) who has been injured may bring a class action on behalf of everyone who has been harmed. It is common, however, after the action has been started for many other injured people to join the class action lawsuit (become class members). If the case results in a successful recovery, (either through settlement or trial) all class members (named plaintiffs) receive their portion of the amount paid by the wrongdoers.

Most class actions are filed for compensatory (money) damages. Class actions may also be filed to resolve disputes over a “limited fund,” where the money available is inadequate to fully compensate all class members.

Occasionally, class actions are filed to seek a declaratory judgment, where the judge makes an official statement or interpretation regarding an issue, such as whether it is legal or illegal. Finally, a class action may seek injunctive relief, asking for the court to order the defendant to do or refrain from doing something.

If the constitutional and procedural protections required for fairness are met in the underlying action, all absent class members are bound to the judgment or settlement of the case. However, if the action is primarily for compensatory damages, absent class members are entitled to notice and an opportunity to “opt-out” (exclude themselves) from the proceedings. Generally, class members do not “join” into the litigation, but decide to participate by not “opting-out.” If a person opts-out, he is not bound by any judgment or settlement of the class action and may file a separate lawsuit.