A class action lawsuit is one in which a large number of plaintiffs are bringing similar claims against the defendant(s). Class actions are governed by federal law – specifically Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23 and 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332 (d) – which provides that a class action may be filed in federal court if the claim arises under federal law or if the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000 and one of the following conditions is met: (1) any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant; (2) any member of a class of plaintiffs is a foreign state or a citizen or subject of a foreign state and any defendant is a citizen of a State; or (3) any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State and any defendant is a foreign state or a citizen or subject of a foreign state.
A class action lawsuit begins by one or several named plaintiffs filing a claim against the defendant(s) on behalf of a proposed class, all of which must have suffered a common injury or damages. Once the complaint is filed, the named plaintiff(s) must file a motion for class certification. In some cases, class certification requires that discovery take place in order to determine the size of the proposed class and whether it meets the standards for class certification.
The defendants may object to the motion for class certification based on whether the issues are appropriately handled as a class action, whether the named plaintiffs are sufficiently representative of the class, and whether there is a relationship with the law firm or firms handling the case.
Generally, in order for the proposed class to be certified it must meet the following requirements:
In many cases, the party seeking certification must also show that common issues, rather than individual fact-specific conflicts, will dominate the litigation and that a class action, rather than individual litigation, is a better method for resolving the dispute at hand.
Because class action lawsuits aggregate similar claims, the legal process may be more efficient and less costly. Class actions also ensure that defendants who have harmed a significant number of people, but with minimal damage to each plaintiff, are held accountable for their actions. If left to pursue each claim individually, plaintiffs might choose not to undergo the time and expense of litigation to pursue a claim that might only produce minimal compensation.
Class actions can also save plaintiffs many of the upfront costs associated with litigation because law firms frequently represent plaintiffs on a contingent basis. In other words, the plaintiffs pay a percentage of the ultimate recovery upon conclusion of the case – if nothing is recovered, nothing is paid.
Some of the more common types of class action lawsuits involve the following:
Antitrust Violations. Antitrust class action suits usually allege that a company illegally priced their products in order to increase profits, eliminate competition, or allocate markets. Federal antitrust laws prohibit numerous trade practices, including collusion among competitors for the purpose of price fixing. Consumers and/or competitors who suffer financial injuries as a result of antitrust violations may bring a lawsuit in civil court. Antitrust lawsuits are typically brought as class actions because of the large number of plaintiffs and the complexity of the legal issues involved.
Aviation Accidents. Because commercial airline accidents typically involved a large number of injured parties, passengers and surviving family members often choose to pursue their claims as a class action due to the complexities and expenses involved with bringing an individual personal injury aviation lawsuit.
Consumer Protection Laws. Consumer protection laws are designed to prevent companies from taking advantage of consumers by scamming, misleading or providing poor service, as well as other deceptive trade practices. Frequently, many plaintiffs are injured when a company violates consumer protection laws, making a class action lawsuit an advantageous method of litigation. Consumer protection laws include Truth in Lending Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Housing Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Illinois Lemon Law, Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, and Illinois Home Repair Fraud Act.
Employment. Employment class action lawsuits, in which groups of employees who sue their common employer, are among the most commonly filed class actions. A significant number of employment class actions involve allegations of discrimination. Discrimination in the workplace based on race, religion, gender, age, national origin or disability is unlawful and employees can seek compensation if they suffer as a result of discrimination. Types of discriminatory actions include wrongful termination, reduction in pay or benefits, failure to hire or interview, wrongful demotion or transfer, and unfairly denying job promotion, violate discrimination laws – provided that the plaintiff can prove that there was a bias and that discrimination was a motivating factor in the action.
Environmental Hazards and Toxic Torts. Environmental and toxic exposure cases are almost always class action lawsuits because they rarely affect just one individual. Rather, there are frequently hundreds – or even thousands – of individuals exposed to environmental hazards. Damages in environmental and toxic tort cases can include both compensatory, which reimburse plaintiffs for actual losses, and punitive damages, which punish the wrongdoer and seek to prevent future misconduct.
Product Liability. Product liability class action lawsuits are brought by a group of consumers who are injured by a dangerous or defective product. Depending on state law, product liability lawsuits can be filed based on negligence, strict liability or breach of warranty for design defects, manufacturing defects or marketing defects.
Because class actions are complex legal matters, the legal representation of a skilled class action attorney is critical. The Chicago class action attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC are experienced representing plaintiffs in class action lawsuits involving personal injury, product liability, employment and toxic tort matters. Contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys to learn more about how we can help you with your class action lawsuit.