What Is a Putative Class Action?

A putative class action is a lawsuit brought by one or more named plaintiffs on behalf of a potential group of similar individuals (known as a class) who allegedly suffered a common injury. Attorneys are seeking damages for the group rather than for a single plaintiff. 

Supreme Court building in Washington, DC

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is a court case involving a group of people who file a lawsuit against a single defendant. Typically, one or several “lead plaintiffs” represent all the people who participate in the class action. Class action lawsuits are designed for injury situations where multiple people have suffered similar injuries as a result of the defendant’s actions.

Class actions are appropriate when the damages claimed by each individual plaintiff, the individuals claiming injuries, are too small for individual lawsuits to be worthwhile. In a group, these plaintiffs have the resources to hire an attorney and obtain damages for their injuries. Class action lawsuits also benefit the court system because courts are relieved of hearing hundreds or thousands of small claims cases.

Federal vs. State Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit can be brought in federal or state courts, depending on the circumstances of the case. If the case involves federal laws, then a federal court is the proper jurisdiction. In 2005, Congress passed the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) making it easier for defendants to move cases to federal courts.

CAFA makes it possible for a case to be moved to federal court when at least one person on the defendant’s side and one person on the plaintiff’s side are citizens of different states or countries. However, defendants are not permitted to move their cases to federal court unless the plaintiff is seeking damages that exceed $5 million, and the class must consist of at least 100 plaintiffs.

How Do Class Action Lawsuits Become Certified?

When a class action lawsuit is filed, the class must be certified by the court to bring an action. Before certification is granted, the court will consider the following issues:

  • The claims of all representatives in the class action must be similar
  • The claims of all representatives must represent the entire class
  • The plaintiffs must adequately represent the interests of the entire class
  • The plaintiffs must be competent
  • The plaintiffs must not have conflicts of interest
  • The question of fact must come from one act or a pattern of conduct by the defendant

Different Types of Class Action Lawsuits

Class action lawsuits are complicated legal cases and follow a different path in court than other types of lawsuits. Because class action cases have federal and state requirements, it’s important to work with a personal injury attorney who understands how to file a class action lawsuit in the proper jurisdiction.

Class action lawsuits are often filed against government entities, financial institutions, manufacturers, retailers, and employers. Many lawsuits are based on injury allegations due to false advertising by businesses and corporations of services and products, hiring or termination discrimination towards workers, various unlawful employment practices by companies, managers, and supervisors, and defective products that cause injuries. Common types of class action lawsuits include the following:

  • Patterns of discrimination by a large corporation that involves race, age, gender, or sexual orientation
  • Employees harmed by a corporation’s unfair business practices
  • Consumers and merchants who have paid exorbitant prices for a product
  • Consumers affected by a defective product
  • Patients harmed by unsafe drugs
  • Investors that were victimized by securities fraud

Cases that involve employment class action are common in every state. These cases are filed for a variety of reasons that constitute wrongful actions on the part of an employer. Discrimination claims are among the top class actions, but they can be difficult to prove in court. To win such a case, the defendants must prove the case by producing evidence of bias.

Cases that involve an antitrust class action are investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice with assistance from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The Clayton Antitrust Act passed in 1914 allows defendants injured by antitrust violations to sue for three times the amount of actual damages.

What Is a Putative Class Action Lawsuit?

In both federal and state courts, the process for bringing a class action lawsuit is simply filing a proposed or “putative” class action, where the named plaintiffs are seeking damages. A putative class action is brought by one or more named plaintiffs on behalf of a potential group of similarly situated individuals (known as a class) who allegedly suffered a common injury. However, in a putative class action, the courts have not yet certified the class.

If you suffer an injury or damages caused by acts of discrimination, unfair business practices, unfair prices, defective products, unsafe drugs, or securities fraud, you may want to consider a punitive class action lawsuit against the party who caused harm. To determine if a class action lawsuit is right for you, it’s best to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney who handles class action cases.

Filing a punitive class action can provide restitution for your damages without high legal fees, reduce the cost of litigation, and motivate other defendants to participate in restitution. Attorney’s fees are usually taken from the damages awarded, rather than received upfront. Depending on the type of lawsuit filed and the number of defendants represented, class members may be entitled to a portion of the damages paid by the defendant. Since a punitive class action typically involves many defendants, the amount you receive if you win the lawsuit may be minimal.

In most cases, damages to defendants are paid in class-action refund checks. The total damage award is divided equally among all defendants participating in the class action lawsuit. If you don’t cash the check, the money may be returned to the plaintiff. In some cases, payments to defendants may be awarded in the form of free services, replacement products, and company rebates.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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