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Class Action Lawsuits

WHAT IS A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT?

A class action is a legal procedure that allows many people with similar grievances to join together and file a lawsuit. The lawsuit is filed by a lead plaintiff (or lead plaintiffs) on behalf of a larger group (the “class”) of absent parties. This differs from a traditional lawsuit, where one party sues another party for redress of a wrong, and all of the parties are present in court.

Class actions are most common where the allegations involve a large number of people (usually 40 or more) who have been injured by the same defendant in the same way.

Instead of each damaged person bringing his or her own lawsuit, the class action allows all the claims of all class members—whether they know they have been damaged or not—to be resolved in a single proceeding through the efforts of the representative plaintiff(s) and appointed class counsel.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit and What is its Purpose?

The class action vehicle is used generally when a number of people have suffered the same or similar injuries. Often many of the individuals’ injuries were relatively minor, such that they might not pursue legal redress on their own. Together, however, the value of the claims of the class add up, and suing as a class means consolidating the attorneys, defendant, evidence, witnesses, and most other aspects of the litigation. If the number of people affected by the product or conduct is high, it becomes impractical or even impossible for them to file individual lawsuits. When such an action is permitted, the group files the lawsuit with a representative plaintiff — called a “named plaintiff” or “lead plaintiff” — at the forefront.

There are many examples of class action lawsuits. A class may consist of a group of employees who were subjected to race discrimination, a number of patients who were prescribed a drug with injurious side effects, a neighborhood of residents whose homes or families were injured by a toxic spill, all the consumers who purchased a defective product that caused them injuries, or corporate investors who suffered fraud in the purchase or sale of stocks and other securities.

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