What Makes a Class Action Case?

Since class action cases can be brought by attorneys for a variety of reasons, there can be confusion about what makes a case a class action. Simply put, a class action is a case where the court allows a plaintiff to sue individually and on behalf of others similarly situated. Often times when individual damages are small a class action is the only viable way to proceed with litigation.

A class action case must be certified by the court. Certification is a process where a judge approves the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s lawyer as qualified to represent the interests of the class. After certification all class members are notified that they are part of a class action. All class members are included in the class action unless they “opt out”.

In general, some of the factors considered by lawyers when deciding whether to file a case as a class action include:

COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF A CLASS ACTION CASE

1. Is the potential class large enough? Typically to be certified as a class action in California there must be at least 35 people who were injured in similar fashion as the class representative and suffered similar damages. In practice class action are often much larger than 35 people. Class actions often contain hundreds or thousands of class members. Lawyers use class actions to “join” people into one case as opposed to having to file individual lawsuits. Think about it this way:  If you are the only person who suffered injury or damage your case cannot be certified as a class action. However, if a large group of people suffered injuries and damages similar to yours it may be possible for you represent the entire group as the plaintiff in a class action.

2.  Are There common issues of fact and law? By way of example, assume one million defective tires were sold in California. The defect in all the tires could cause a catastrophic failure at any time. Such a case would be a good candidate for a class action. Why? Because everyone who purchased the defective tires shares common injury (they bought defective tires) and damage (the defect makes the tires unsafe and the tires have to be replaced).

If you have questions about whether you share common issues of law and fact with other people and believe that you might be a good class representative call us to discuss your case.

3.  Will the class representative adequately protect the interests of all the people in the class. In a class action the class representative must be able to adequately represent the interests of the class. In the above example, if the defective tire caused serious injuries to a number of people but the class representative was not injured the court could refuse to certify the class representative to represent the interests of the class.

The law surrounding class actions generally uses the terms “numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation” in connection with class action certification. Your attorney must be familiar with how these terms and how they apply to the facts of your case. Gregory M. Garrison has been certified as lead class counsel in federal and state courts throughout California and has litigated many class action cases. In order to assure you get the best possible representation call us. Consultations are free. Choosing the wrong lawyer is not.