Bordas & Bordas handles class action lawsuits under various consumer protection laws, including those involving unfair debt collection, defective products, hidden or unlawful fees, as well as unfair lending practices.
What is the purpose of a class action? Class action lawsuits are designed to give individuals who have been treated unfairly by corporate entities fair access to the legal system. Often, one person’s damages are not significant enough to warrant the costs and risks of a lawsuit; therefore, fighting back through standard litigation is not always feasible. However, a single class action lawsuit where an individual represents the interests of many people who have been harmed in the same way helps to level the playing field.
Who are the parties in a class action? A class action lawsuit is typically filed by one or more plaintiffs who have been harmed in the same way by the same entity. At some point, the attorney representing the plaintiffs requests that the court “certify a class,” meaning that the attorney and the named plaintiffs are granted authority by the court to pursue the claim on behalf of everyone else who has suffered the same injury at the hands of the same entity. All of those similarly situated are known as “class members.” In most cases, class members are automatically included in a certified class action lawsuit. However, individuals can opt out if they wish to pursue their own litigation or otherwise prefer not to participate. This is done through a process known as “class notice” or “class action notice.” In fact, you have probably received a class action notice at some point in your life, advising you that you are part of a class because you were overcharged for something or misled in some way. Those notices include important deadlines and instructions for opting out.
How does class certification work? In order for a class action lawsuit to proceed, the court must “certify the class.” To do so, the class of plaintiffs must be determined to be too large to practically proceed as a group of individuals and to have sufficiently similar claims that allow for a cohesive presentation of evidence. In addition, the plaintiff or plaintiffs requesting class certification must demonstrate an ability to adequately represent the interests of the class as a whole. One element in that determination involves the qualifications of the attorney or attorneys who will be representing the class. Several of Bordas & Bordas’ attorneys have been appointed by courts as class counsel in many cases.
Do class action plaintiffs get a lot of money? Not usually. One of the reasons class action lawsuits exist is that each individual’s damages may be relatively small — often too small to warrant filing an individual lawsuit. You have probably seen large class action settlements in the news, but it is important to remember those funds are being distributed to hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of plaintiffs. When a verdict is entered or a settlement reached in a class action lawsuit, a formula is typically applied to determine how much is paid out to each plaintiff. The formula includes factors such as the number of times or length of time the plaintiff was subjected to the wrongful conduct and the extent of harm suffered. Bordas & Bordas’ class action cases have ranged from consumers receiving a few hundred dollars to the occasional tens of thousands. In the majority of our firm’s cases, consumer class members received between one and three thousand dollars.
However, it is important to note most class action settlements involve a “service payment,” which is additional compensation for the consumer or consumers who were the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit. This is to compensate the named plaintiffs for taking time and energy to act on behalf of the whole class. The amount of these service payments (and whether to approve any payment at all) is ultimately determined by the judge, yet are typically several thousand dollars per named plaintiff.
If most plaintiffs don’t win a lot of money, why bother? Because consumer rights are worth protecting. Class action lawsuits can be a powerful consumer protection tool. When a large company has been cheating, misleading or deceiving a large number of consumers over a long period of time, a class action lawsuit allows those consumers to join forces and put a stop to the entity’s bad behavior. This allows parties who have suffered relatively small harms to force better treatment for themselves and others going forward. Class action lawsuits are a vital deterrent in today’s greed prevalent economy.
How many plaintiffs are required for a class action lawsuit? There’s no precise number of plaintiffs required for a class action lawsuit. Rather, the court must determine the class is “so numerous” it would be impractical to join all members individually. While this is determined on a case-by-case basis, 40 or more individuals is typically deemed sufficient. Many class action lawsuits include hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs.
How are the attorneys paid? Attorneys like those at Bordas & Bordas don’t receive payment in class action lawsuits unless they win or settle the case. When that happens, they get paid out of the judgment or settlement paid by the defendant.
For answers to more of your questions pertaining to class action lawsuits, please contact Bordas & Bordas.