A “class action” is a specific type of lawsuit in which a large group of individuals, or “class” of plaintiffs, has suffered the same type of injury from a common defendant. Rather than suing as individuals in separate cases, they decide to sue on behalf of themselves as well as all others who have been similarly injured in a single, consolidated case.
A class-action lawsuit is not dependent upon the type of claim involved: it may be a discrimination claim, a statutory claim based upon the violation of a wage and hour claim, or another type of legal claim. The term “class action” does not refer to the legal theory involved, but rather, to how the plaintiffs choose to sue the defendant or defendants. The hallmarks of a class action suit are four main elements:
- A common set of facts which brought about the injuries to the plaintiffs from a common defendant or group of defendants;
- A named plaintiff or plaintiffs who adequately represent the interests of the class;
- A large number of plaintiffs, making it more practical for the court to consolidate the cases into one action, rather than force the plaintiffs to litigate separate actions; and
- A common cause and/or injury that is typical of the injuries suffered by others in the plaintiff class.
However, whether a court will proceed to hear a class action depends upon the following criteria:
One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if:
- the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
- there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
- the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
- the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
Sometimes, an individual suffers a serious wrong caused by another, but may not have the resources to pursue a lawsuit on his or her own behalf. Or, if the individual can afford an attorney, the damages may still be serious, but not large enough to justify paying an attorney to file an individual suit, especially if the costs and legal fees for a civil suit can often exceed tens of thousands of dollars. If the injury suffered is one that the plaintiff believes is one suffered by other individuals in the same situation from the same cause, the individual may consider filing the suit as a class action on behalf of him or herself and other individuals in similar circumstances.
Class action suits are common in employment litigation. For example, a company might routinely make its non-exempt employees work through their mandated meal breaks or automatically deduct time for mandated meal breaks irrespective of the employees took lunch, or failing to timely pay all wages upon termination, or improperly rounding time whereby the employees are not being paid for all hours worked, or failing to provide a second meal break when employees work in excess of ten-hour shifts or failing to pay all vested vacation pay upon termination, or doing necessary work to prepare for their shifts without being paid. Or, a large group of female employees might allege a pattern of discrimination in promotions to management-level positions in a company that routinely favored male employees. In these examples, the employees would join together as a class to hire an attorney and obtain a remedy that they would not otherwise pursue because the costs of obtaining a civil remedy individually through litigation would far outweigh any potential individual benefit. Contrarily, as a group, the total damages that may be recovered justify hiring legal counsel to pursue the claim.
In a class action, not only does no individual plaintiff bear the total burden of carrying the litigation forward on his or her own, but the presence of other plaintiffs who suffered significant injury can greatly influence the likelihood of obtaining a favorable settlement from the defendant or of providing necessary proof to validate a legal claim.
There are other advantages of bringing class-action lawsuits instead of individual cases. In particular, class actions can make litigation more efficient not only for the class of plaintiffs but for the court system and for defendants, as well.
A single court can resolve literally thousands of complaints in just one case if the case proceeds as a class action, and thereby save the resources of other courts in other jurisdictions, and prevent multiple courts from reaching conflicting results due to the differing quality of legal representation or to other factors. Defendants can defend just one case rather than multiple cases, and obtain the assurance of knowing that, if it resolves just one class action case, it need not worry about other costly cases arising in the future from other plaintiffs. Both parties can benefit from having to only prepare for one case, and avoid having to repeatedly go to the expense and difficulty of deposing and questioning multiple witnesses and parties, sifting through evidence, hiring and interviewing expert witnesses, and pursuing other incidents of complex litigation.
If you suffered an injury, and you believe that others are similarly situated and may have been victimized in the same way by the same defendant, you should consult a knowledgeable and experienced class action attorney to determine whether a class action lawsuit is a viable option for you.
The Los Angeles class action attorneys at The Nourmand Law Firm handle specific types of class-action lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs:
- Employee class actions (e.g., violations of federal or state labor laws or discrimination laws that affect all or a significant portion of employees);
- False or misleading advertising (e.g., grossly exaggerated claims as to the effectiveness, quality, or use of a product);
- Illegal debt collections practices (e.g., creditors charge unconscionable or disallowed fees, or harass debtors with calls or letters);
- Privacy violations (e.g., unauthorized recording or dissemination of personal or financial information);
- Defective products (e.g., contaminated food, malfunctioning equipment);
- Financial institutions (e.g., banks violating terms of service contracts, charging excessive fees, failing to carry out fiduciary responsibilities);
- Gift cards (e.g., placing hidden conditions or fees on gift card purchase, use, or usability);
- Auto dealers/lenders (e.g., misrepresenting financial or warranty terms in a sales contract).
At The Nourmand Law Firm, you never pay an up-front fee to obtain an initial consultation for evaluating your potential class-action lawsuit. And, if we agree to take your case, you will pay no fee at all—we will, instead, agree to represent the class on a contingency fee basis. If you need qualified legal advice on whether you have a valid class action claim, call the California class action lawyers at The Nourmand Law Firm or use our secure online case evaluation form right on this page.
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