Class Action Lawsuits: How They Work and How They’re Won

Class Action Lawsuits Handled by Saunders and WalkerIf you’ve ever watched broadcast television, you’ve probably seen a few commercials in which a dramatic narration explains the potential dangers of a given medical procedure, pharmaceutical or other product or service, then directs the viewer to call a designated law office if they’ve been affected. Behind every one of these ads is what’s known as a class action lawsuit.

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

In a standard lawsuit, one or a few plaintiffs typically sue a defendant based on a significant loss of some kind. However, not all individuals who have suffered a loss or injury have a case that is sufficient to bring alone. In cases where many individuals have experienced similar losses as a result of some action or neglect on the part of a company or other entity, those individuals can join together as a “class” of plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit.

For example: a portion of those who took the prescription medication Nexium experienced severe Nexium side effects and felt that they were due legal reparations for harm done. Those patients then joined together in a class action lawsuit to argue their case as a whole. As a group, these patients stood a much better chance of making an argument than they did as individual plaintiffs.

Class Action Lawsuit Against Medical Industry

Class action suits can be filed in both state and federal courts, but the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 requires that federal cases involve claims in excess of $5 million or represent plaintiffs or defendants from a variety of states. If the plaintiff class contains fewer than 100 people, a federal court may also choose to decline to hear a case.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure also provide other specific rules by which judges, lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants must abide throughout the class action process, including regarding certification and definition of the class, notification of potential plaintiffs, appointment of legal counsel, approval of any settlements and distribution of any monetary damages.

Class Actions, Step-By-Step

Take a look at the different stages of a class action suit as it proceeds through the court:

  1. The lawyer filing the class action drafts and files a complaint against the defendants. The defendants are then “served” via mail or by a court process server.
  2. The defendants have the opportunity to answer the complaint. At this point, the defendants usually deny the allegations in the case and may file motions to challenge the suit. If motions are filed, the judge will rule on them. Once the judge has ruled, the defendants must provide an answer.
  3. The “discovery” phase begins. Lawyers involved in the case obtain documentation from the other side, take depositions, ask questions and generally seek information to help support their case. During this time, the defendants can again file motions to challenge the class action known as “motions for summary judgment.” If the defendant wins with such motions, a good portion of the plaintiff class’s claims may be dismissed by the court.
  4. After the discovery phase, the plaintiff files a motion to have the class action certified (and the defendants will likely file objections). The court will then hold a hearing, and if the plaintiffs win, the case will be certified.
  5. Once the class action suit is certified, the judge will order that all potential plaintiffs be notified of the case either via newspaper publication or U.S. mail. All members of the plaintiff class must be notified of their rights and given a period of time during which they may opt out of the class action.
  6. Finally, there will either be a trial or a settlement. Additional discovery may be involved, but once all discovery is finished the case must either settle or be tried. If monetary damages are to be paid as a result, all members of the plaintiff class will then receive their portion of the damages.

Common Types of Class Action Lawsuits

Abuse Is a Common Type of Class Action Lawsuit

Fraud Is a Common Type of Class Action Lawsuit Malpractice Is a Common Type of Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit can be brought against a defendant in any case of large-scale harm or loss, but there are a few common themes amongst class action lawsuits, including the following:

  • Harmful drugs
  • Medical malpractice
  • Dangerous or malfunctioning medical devices
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Defective or dangerous products
  • Fraudulent or unfair business practices
  • Securities fraud
  • Employment-related discrimination

…And others.

What Do I Do as a Potential Plaintiff?

As mentioned earlier, the judge will order during the notice phase that all possible plaintiffs (that is, all individuals who are known to have been involved with the product, company or issue at hand and may have suffered losses) must be notified of their eligibility as a member of the plaintiff class. If you receive a notification in the mail that you may be entitled to damages as part of a class action suit, it means that you have automatically been included in the suit as part of the plaintiff class and will be entitled to a specified portion of any damages paid when the legal process is finished.

Filing Proper Paperwork Is Important for Potential Plantiffs

If you do fall within the scope of the plaintiff class but would rather bring your own individual lawsuit against the defendant, you also have the option of opting out of the class action suit. Your judge-ordered notification will include instructions on how to opt out of the class action process.

What Does a Lawyer Do in a Class Action Suit?

When a class action lawsuit is filed, the judge will appoint representative legal counsel to the plaintiff class. Usually, the judge will appoint the lawyer who initially filed the case, but if the judge feels there is another attorney with better experience and/or expertise in the subject matter of the case, he or she may appoint someone else. The appointed lawyer is then responsible for fairly and thoroughly representing the plaintiff class in court, just as he or she would in any other case.

Lawyers Can Help During a Class Action Lawsuit

Saunders Lawyers Represents Plaintiffs in Class Action Suits

If you’d like to start or join an existing class action lawsuit, Saunders & Walker has the legal expertise and professional experience to represent you and those who’ve suffered with you. Our knowledgeable attorneys are capable of representing plaintiffs dealing with everything from dangerous medication side effects to cases of priest sexual abuse. Contact our office today to make an appointment for your 100% free case evaluation.