In the legal system, most disputes are generally thought to be between two entities. Whether it’s a case between spouses in family law, or an employment law matter between an employee and employer, or even a criminal matter, where it will be the state against the defendant, there are examples of this model of lawsuit everywhere. But what happens when an injury is so widespread that multiple people can bring the same claim against a single entity? Fortunately, the law provides an answer.
Class Action Suits
In many consumer protection cases, it might not be feasible for just one plaintiff to go after the large corporation that may have caused any injuries. Whereas the corporation that is alleged to be at fault might have enough money to carry on through litigation for a good amount of time, the same is generally not true of an individual. In addition, individual injuries resulting from a corporation’s negligence or misbehavior might not even build up enough to justify a single person bringing the case against that corporation. As the Honorable Richard A. Posner, one of the most renowned judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has observed, “[O]nly a lunatic or a fanatic sues for $30.” Carnegie v. Household Intern. Inc., 376 F.3d 656 (7th Cir. 2004). While the odds might seem stacked against consumers, there is a way for consumers to band together against a corporation.
The class action lawsuit allows multiple plaintiffs who suffer from the same issues or ailments in a matter to bring one consolidated case against an entity. Much like any other lawsuit, though, there are certain requirements that must be met before a class action suit may be brought. The three requirements of a class action suit, which can be found in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(a), are known as critical mass, commonality, and representativeness. While each state has its own law regulating class action suits, the requisites remain constant across jurisdictions.
When one thinks of a class action suit, there are typically more people than just two or three plaintiffs. This is because one of the first requirements of a class action lawsuit is that the class of injured persons be so numerous that litigation by all members would be impractical. Just try to imagine even one thousand individuals each bringing their own case before the courts. Needless to say, this would create an undue burden on the already taxed court system, and push back a multitude of time-sensitive cases.
The next requirement is commonality, which refers to the type of injury suffered by the parties. Under the requirement of commonality, there must be questions of law or fact that are common to the case. For example, if a class of persons sued an entity for personal injury, another person suing that entity for employment violations would be unable to join the class.
Finally, there is the issue of representativeness. Due to the nature of class action suits, it would be unfeasible for all members of the suit to gather together into one court in order to try their case. What the law does is require a representative of the class to bring claims that are typical of the claims or defenses of the entire class.
The second representativeness requirement under the law is that the representative of the class protects the interests of the class. While this might sound like a common sense rule, it does help prevent defendant corporations from cutting a deal with the representative in order to gain a favorable settlement agreement, or from taking other actions that might otherwise be unfair to the class.
Contact an Attorney
If you are looking for a dedicated attorney that will help you navigate the legal system in order to protect your rights, then contact the Bromberg Law Office, P.C. to make an appointment today.