A class action is a lawsuit where one or more persons, called class representatives, act as the named plaintiffs on behalf of a group of people who were similarly harmed by the same defendant or defendants. A class action is a representative action where the named plaintiff is seeking to represent an entire class of persons who are similarly situated.
A judge determines whether a case proceeds as a class action during a hearing on a motion for class certification. At the hearing on class certification, the plaintiff must prove that proceeding as a class action is legally proper. A critical factor is proving that common issues as to fact and law with respect to Defendants liability predominates over individual questions. The class certification hearing is a critical step in prosecuting a class action, as the denial of a motion for class certification is usually the end of that case as a class action, unless the denial is reversed on appeal. Once a case is certified by a Judge as a class action, the entire class receives notice and an opportunity to opt out of the class. A class member who does not want to participate in a class action following certification must opt out of it. Those who do not opt out become class members, participate in the benefits of any recovery from the lawsuit, and are bound by the outcome.
Class actions arise in a variety of settings, from labor violation claims by employees against employers, to insurance premium and claim issues, to consumer and banking cases, and many others. The main criteria for a class action is that there are predominantly common facts which apply generally to the legal theories involving the class members.
Class actions serve an important role in shaping public policy. They provide a means for redress when corporations, businesses or others act unlawfully, but the injury or amount of damages are small. In those circumstances, an individual lawsuit is often not justified and would be cost prohibitive given the amount of potential recovery. Class actions provide a means for injured persons to band together in those circumstances where the injury is small and there would likely be no individual remedy, and seek redress as a group. This considered a beneficial effect of class actions in keeping companies and businesses honest, even where the individual amounts at issue are small.
Because class actions aggregate claims of similarly situated persons, they are often large, high-value cases. Class action procedures are complicated, and handling a class action usually requires an attorney with experience. One of the criteria for certification of a class action is that counsel for the plaintiff be adequate to handle a class action competently.
Haffner Law PC has extensive class action experience in diverse practice areas. Our lawyers have litigated on behalf of classes of consumers of defective products, workers unlawfully denied California labor law protections, those subjected to unlawful or unfair business practices, and others. If you believe you have been wronged and may have a basis for a class action, Haffner Law is available for consultation.