We are all familiar with the concept of a lawsuit. When an individual or business behaves in a way that causes measurable harm to others, deliberately or otherwise, the aggrieved party can file a lawsuit. However, in cases where a large number of people have all been affected by the same issue, a class action lawsuit might be filed.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
The class action suit is a type of representative litigation where a number of individuals are represented as a single entity against another individual or business. Class action lawsuits are used when there are multiple individuals who have been affected by an issue.
For example, if you purchase a hairdryer that turns out to be defective, causing you to become injured when using it, you could file a lawsuit against the manufacturer for selling a defective or dangerous product. However, if you discover that there are a whole bunch of other people out there who have also been injured by the same model of hairdryer, a class action might be launched instead.
So, how does a class action lawsuit get filed? A traditional lawsuit involves one party suing another, with each party representing themselves and their own interests. By contrast, in a class action suit, one of the parties will be representing the interests of a larger group of people. In principle, there is no limit on the number of individuals that can be represented by another party, some class action suits involve millions of people.
Who is in Charge?
For all class action lawsuits, there will be a particular plaintiff who is named as the lead. This person will be treated as speaking for the rest of the claimants and will be responsible for negotiating the final settlement, as well as sitting for depositions and, if necessary, participating in a court trial as the representative of the claimants.
When are Class Actions Used?
The vast majority of the class action lawsuits in the United States are known as plaintiff class actions. This simply means that while the claim is being filed on behalf of a large group of people, there is ultimately a single defendant. However, there are some rare cases where the defendant might be a group of people as well.
Class action lawsuits against a class of defendants are rare, in large part because of the legal difficulties involved in using a single defense for multiple people. There are also valid concerns about whether due process, as it is understood by US law, can be observed when a defendant is a group rather than an individual.
The rate at which class action lawsuits are used in the US justice system has been steadily rising for a number of years. This is a trend that can be seen at both the state and federal levels.
Since the turn of the millennium, both SCOTUS and Congress have sought to limit the prevalence of class action lawsuits. Despite these efforts, class actions remain an integral part of the US legal landscape.