Class-Action Lawsuits - Can They Help You?
A class-action litigation is one in which a single law firm or attorney represents a group of people who have been wronged in some common way. The wrong may have come in the shape of physical harm from a commercial product or perhaps in the form of financial harm done by a company misleading the public in some manner. From the early 1990's, class-action suits were filed on behalf of girls allegedly harmed by silicone breast implants, and attorneys are filing class-action lawsuits on behalf of individuals allegedly harmed through the use of Vioxx and Bextra.
There are advantages and disadvantages to class-action suits. The principal benefit is that they allow a group of individuals, possibly numbering in the thousands, an chance to have their case heard in court without all them having to file another lawsuit. If tens of thousands, or tens of thousands of thousands, of individuals filed individual lawsuits against the same firm for the very same reason, the courts, both at the Federal and state levels, could become obstructed with nearly identical instances. Another benefit is that it allows individuals who may not have individually endured enough harm to justify a lawsuit by themselves to seek reimbursement for a group, or"class" in which the injury committed is cumulatively big.
The judges decide whether a case is to be viewed as a class-action lawsuit, since the court must determine if the merits of this case warrant handling the suit in this manner, and whether the lawyer or law firm in question can adequately represent the victims involved. Should the case proceed as a class-action lawsuit, only a couple of representatives of the course need appear in court. They'll represent the class; it isn't essential for all members of this class to be present at trial.
When the case is certified as a class-action lawsuit, all parties representing the"class" are advised by their lawyer either through email or public notice. Then they have the chance to"opt out", if they don't want to be represented at the case by the lawyers in question. Unless the notified people opt out, they are included and will share in the award, if the litigation proceed to a successful conclusion. Individuals who decide to opt out may then elect to employ their own representation and file a lawsuit by themselves.
Class action suits typically take a long time to attain their conclusion, especially if the lawsuit is followed by appeals by the losing party. It's not unusual, but for class action lawsuits to be settled out of court.
As always, should you end up in a situation where a lawsuit may be warranted, make sure you check with an experienced attorney.