Class Action America
"giving you a piece of the pie"
A class action lawsuit is a suit in which many Plaintiffs sue an entity for the same wrongdoing. The first requirement for a class action lawsuit is that a law firm brings the suit and get it certified as a true class action lawsuit. Without passing this first important hurdle a suit of this sort will not go any further.
Once the lawsuit is certified, then anyone wronged by the entity in the same manner can join in the suit. This simplifies things as well as giving additional power to the so-called little guys.
Class action suits give people an effective tool to go after the wrong doings of large corporations and win large settlements, but there are many types of class action lawsuits of which consumer suits are only a portion. Obviously these kinds of lawsuits aim to simplify the process of bringing lawsuits. If this were not in place, we would have a much more chaotic system.
When a class action suit is certified and approved, all plaintiffs become members of a so-called “class” – thus the name of this type of lawsuit.
There are many class action suits brought every year, and many of them have had a large impact on the law of the land as well as the way that large institutions function, including corporate entities and governmental entities as well. They are an important tool for the people in the United States, allowing individuals to assert more their rights under the law.
To form a class action lawsuit, a rule of thumb often given is that 30 – 50 separate individuals should be involved as plaintiffs. However this number can vary depending on the suit, and often that number can go much higher.
As with many lawsuits the law firm takes on the costs of filing the suit and doing all the legal work, therefore firms are hesitant to file suits that don’t have a chance of winning.
This keeps the court system from being clogged with frivolous suits and is also a protection for the little guy who has been wronged, as many plaintiffs won’t have the financial means to bring expensive lawsuits.
Law firms that bring and win class actions suits stand to gain both financial benefit as well as free public relations coverage for the firm, so this incentivizes firms to bring solid cases and serve as a safety net for the common man.
Many of us are familiar with class action lawsuits perhaps unknowingly; with regards to civil rights in the U.S., Brown vs. The Board of Education is probably the most high profile class action suit in this regard. However, many suits involve people suing large corporations for wrongdoing. No institution is safe from a proper class action.
A large and famous class action was brought against the tobacco industry in the case named the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
In this settlement the tobacco industry was forced to revise their marketing practices to young people, were forced to pay out billions of dollars to states that brought the suit, and, also, internal company documents about the ill effects of tobacco were made public. This was a huge blow to the tobacco industry and is a great recent (1998) example of a corporate class action.
Roe vs. Wade is another high-profile lawsuit of a civil nature that gives women the right to terminate a pregnancy in the first three months of said pregnancy. The Supreme Court found that the current laws at the time violated the rights of women under certain amendments to the Constitution.
High-profile consumer class actions include Anderson v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that was made famous in the hit movie entitled Erin Brockovich. In this settlement, the average plaintiff involved received approximately $300,000 in damages. Therefore, this is a great example of how people have stood up to large corporations and won high-dollar settlements.
Recently, class actions are being brought against Volkswagen with regards to them defrauding consumers by deceiving them with regards falsifying emissions standards with regards to many of their automobiles.
Class actions have historically been a huge check to gross abuses of power in corporate America and within the government itself. It is an important tool that we, the people, are afforded under the law.