When a group of people have been injured in the same way by an unsafe product or defective drug, for example, those injured may find that a lawsuit is better pursued as a class action.
There are some advantages to requesting that the court combine individual lawsuits into a single class action. A primary benefit is that the significant financial costs of preparing this type of lawsuit are shared by multiple law firms.
Many class actions are product liability claims asserting that the negligent design or manufacture of a consumer product or medical device led to numerous people being harmed. These cases require extensive research to prove the design or manufacturing defect.
How Do I Know If My Case Qualifies As A Class Action?
For a single lawsuit to become a class action, there must be multiple lawsuits that make similar claims of negligence against the same defendant.
To handle the cases most efficiently, a federal district court may combine multiple lawsuits into a class action. When a class is certified, the court names one of the plaintiffs and their case as the representative of the class. The representative case moves forward on behalf of the class, and the members of the class share in the results.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow the courts to combine multiple claims as a class action if:
- The number of similar lawsuits makes it impractical to try them individually
- The lawsuits, or potential class members’ claims, share common questions of law or fact
- The claims of the injured people being proposed to represent the class are typical of the claims of the rest of the class; and
- The representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
Individuals must decide whether to become members of the plaintiff class. By doing so, they generally relinquish their rights to sue the defendant individually.
Steps To Filing a Class Action Lawsuit
To become part of a class action, you would:
- File a complaint along with one or more other plaintiffs asserting the same or similar negligence and damages against a single defendant.
- Ask the federal district court to declare a class action.
- After the court certifies the proposed class, the class action lawsuit will proceed to discovery, pretrial motions, and, in many cases, settlement negotiations.
- If a settlement agreement is reached, the court must certify it as fair, reasonable, and adequate.
- If the case goes to trial, a judge or jury will determine whether the party being sued is financially liable. If the ruling favors the class, the judge or jury will determine a monetary award to be divided among class members.
If a settlement is approved or an award is handed down, the attorneys and the court will set rules for distributing compensation to class members, including opportunity and requirements to join or be excluded from the class.