As a consumer, you have basic rights when it comes to safety, the right to be informed about a product, to have your concerns heard, and to take legal action if your consumer rights have been violated. Unfortunately, if you are the victim of fraud, a defective product, or false advertising, or you have been misled or mistreated by a large corporation, this could have significant financial consequences, particularly if you suffered a serious injury. However, as a single consumer, your damages may not warrant the costs associated with a lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have the option of pursuing a class action lawsuit if there are several consumers who have the same complaint with the company. By banding together, you and the other consumers whose rights have been violated can join forces to present a significant legal threat to even the largest, most powerful corporations. If you believe that your consumer rights have been violated, and you are interested in pursuing a class action lawsuit, a skilled consumer rights lawyer can help.
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit in which a single consumer makes a claim and files a lawsuit on behalf of a large group of people who have similar legal claims against a company. Essentially, this type of lawsuit supports individual claimants who have suffered an injury but do not have the means to pursue a claim on their own. Oftentimes, that means that taking legal action through the standard litigation process is not always feasible. A class action lawsuit helps to level the playing field and ensure that consumers’ interests are protected. In addition to the financial compensation that you may be eligible to receive, a class action lawsuit also sends a message to the company that the fraudulent, abusive, or dangerous practices will not be tolerated.
What Are the Requirements for a Class Action Lawsuit?
According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), a lawsuit must meet the following criteria for it to be certified as a class action:
- Numerosity: The number of plaintiffs participating in the lawsuit is such that it would be impractical for each individual plaintiff to pursue a lawsuit on his or her own.
- Commonality: The claims of the class members present common legal and factual issues.
- Typicality: The claims made by each of the plaintiffs are typical of the class.
- Adequacy: The individual who is the named plaintiff can represent the other class members and advocate for their interests.
When certifying a class action, the court must make one of the following findings:
- Requiring individuals to pursue separate lawsuits could result in inconsistent rulings or ruling on one member’s claim could have an impact on another member’s ability to pursue his or her claim.
- The defendant has acted in a way that affects the whole class. As a result, the court could grant injunctive or declaratory relief for them as a group.
- The questions of law or fact outweigh any individual class members’ claims, which would make a class action the preferred means of resolving the dispute.
Who Is Involved in a Class Action Lawsuit?
Once one or more plaintiffs have come forward after being harmed in a similar way by the same product, the lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs will request that the court certify a class. This gives the lawyer and the named plaintiffs the authority to pursue the claim on behalf of the other individuals who also suffered the same injury at the hands of the same corporation or entity. These individuals are known as class members. Although class members are often automatically included in a certified class action lawsuit, they may opt out if they do not wish to participate or if they prefer to pursue an individual lawsuit.
While there is no specific number of plaintiffs required for a class action lawsuit, the court will determine whether the class has enough members that it would be impractical for them to pursue individual lawsuits. Typically, 40 or more individuals is considered sufficient, but this is usually determined on a case-by-case basis. Some class action lawsuits have as many as several thousand plaintiffs.
Will I Be Awarded a Large Settlement?
You have likely seen or heard about large class action settlements on the news and in movies such as Erin Brockovich. However, class action plaintiffs are not typically awarded large sums of money because the funds must be distributed among the plaintiffs who were named in the class action lawsuit. In cases in which there are hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of plaintiffs, this will result in a smaller settlement amount for each plaintiff. There is a formula that is used to determine how much is paid to each plaintiff, including factors such as the number of times or the length of time that the plaintiff suffered harm as a result of wrongful conduct. In most cases, class action members receive between one and three thousand dollars. However, even though you may not walk away with a large settlement, class action lawsuits are a powerful consumer protection tool. They allow consumers who have been wronged in some way to come together and bring attention to an entity’s bad behavior and prevent the company from continuing to engage in practices that take advantage of or cause harm to consumers.
What Are the Main Benefits of Pursuing a Class Action Lawsuit?
The costs associated with a class action lawsuit are not nearly as high as if you pursue an individual claim. In a class action lawsuit, all the plaintiffs split the costs equally. In addition, consumer rights lawyers generally work on a contingency basis, which means that you are not responsible for paying any legal fees unless you win the case. Another important benefit to consider is the fact that consumer rights are worth protecting, and class action lawsuits do just that. In fact, they are an effective and vital tool to prevent bad behavior by greedy corporations.
What Are the Most Common Types of Class Action Lawsuits?
Anytime a group of class members has been harmed in a similar way, the individuals impacted may pursue a class action lawsuit against the company responsible for causing them harm. There are a wide range of class action suits that can be brought on behalf of a group of consumers who have been injured, harmed, or whose rights have been violated. The following are examples of some of the most common types of class action lawsuits:
- Anti-trust: In this type of class action, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant illegally overprices a product or service in violation of anti-trust laws. Examples include price fixing or entering into an agreement that knowingly reduces or eliminates competition.
- Employment: If an employment class action is filed, it usually means that there are allegations that the company violated employment laws, including those related to overtime, benefits, discrimination, or other laws that impact employees.
- Consumer protection: This involves violations of state and federal consumer protection laws related to telemarketing, fees and bills for communication services, credit cards, and collection of debts.
- Defective products: If a product has a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a marketing defect, which impacted a large group of consumers, a class action lawsuit may be brought by the group of people impacted.
- Environmental: This involves a large group of consumers who are injured from exposure to an environmental hazard.
- Medical devices: These are personal injury cases that involve defective medical devices, prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs that cause many people to become injured or suffer serious health consequences. In extreme cases, they may involve fatalities.
- Securities and investor fraud: These cases involve a large number of investors who have suffered a significant financial loss as a result of a broker or brokerage firm’s actions.
- Bank fraud: If a group of bank clients are mistreated by the bank, including overcharging for interest or mismanagement of trusts, the clients may file a class action lawsuit against the bank.
Philadelphia Consumer Rights Lawyers at Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. Assist Clients with Class Action Lawsuits
If you believe that your consumer rights were violated and you wish to file a class action lawsuit, reach out to the Philadelphia consumer rights lawyers at Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. Our experienced legal team will work closely with you to determine whether you have a valid case. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the financial compensation for which you are entitled. Call us at 215-735-8600 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. With offices located in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, we serve clients nationwide.