Class Actions

Causes for a Class Action Lawsuit

A class action is a case where the illegal action is widespread throughout the company, and is part of an official or unofficial company policy. If it effects enough people, there may be a class action lawsuit.

The Members of a Class Action Lawsuit

Class actions are lawsuits where a few individuals are the named plaintiffs and represent an entire class of people. A few individual employees stand in for the large class of employees.

These people must have a common interest in the same law and the same facts. Further, the class or group must be so large that it would be impractical for each to file its own lawsuit.

If the class action lawsuit case settles or is won, the members of the class share in the settlement. The named, plaintiff employees recover an amount greater than the members of the general class. This is because these few brought the case forward and did all the work of being a plaintiff in the lawsuit, whereas the involvement of the general class members is usually minimal.

The Process of Class Action Lawsuits

Class actions can be filed in state or federal court under state or federal law. Because a few individuals are representing the class, the courts oversee these lawsuits more carefully than a regular lawsuit.

The attorneys and representatives cannot settle the class action lawsuit without approval of the judge. The attorneys' fees and costs must be approved by the judge.

Sometimes the court invokes injunctive relief (ordering someone to do something rather than ask for money).

Class action lawsuits are very difficult and expensive to litigate. They can take years to be resolved. But often, they are the only way to fix a widespread wrong.

An Example:

There have been some very well-publicized class action lawsuits in the press in the last few years. For example, in the Texaco case the company had an unofficial policy of not promoting African-Americans above a certain level. The policy was widespread throughout the company. A class action lawsuit was brought.