Class actions allow one or more plaintiffs to file a lawsuit to remedy a wrong that has affected each individual plaintiff and a large group of others. In filing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs act as “class representatives” who bring the action on behalf of themselves and a “class” of unnamed plaintiffs. All “class members,” be they a group of investors, shareholders, or consumers, have one thing in common: they all suffered the same or similar harm because of a defendant’s act or omission.
In many situations, class actions are brought to redress a harm suffered by many people that, although collectively large, would not be brought on an individualized basis because the cost of doing so outweighs the harm suffered. For example, if a corporation intentionally overcharges every customer $50 for a service, no individual would bring a claim to recoup that money. But if the company has 50,000 customers, a class action allows at least one plaintiff, and his or her lawyer, to fight for the “unnamed class members” and recoup all proceeds from the company that would otherwise go unpunished.
The procedural device at the heart of any class action is Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (or its state law counterpart). The complaint identifies the class representatives, explains the harm suffered, and defines the class of similarly situated individuals, as well as any potential “sub-classes” for which relief is sought. Once the lawsuit is filed, a court must “certify” the class (or any sub-classes) to allow the case to proceed on a class-wide basis.
Whether a given class is certified turns on whether the following four prerequisites can be met, each of which is alleged in the complaint and, if successful, established at the class-certification stage:
- The class is so numerous that joining all the class members in a single lawsuit is impractical (the numerosity requirement);
- There are questions of law or fact that are common to the class (the commonality requirement);
- The claims or defenses of the class representatives are typical of the claims and defenses of the class (the typicality requirement); and
- The class representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class (the adequacy requirement).
In addition to these “Rule 23(a) requirements,” the proposed class must also establish that one or more of the conditions in Rule 23(b) applies: (1) litigating separate actions would create inconsistent standards of conduct for the defendant or impair the claims of absent or unknown class members; (2) injunctive or declaratory relief is appropriate to correct the defendant’s act or omission; or (3) a class action is the best method available for efficiently litigating the issue at hand.
Bringing a class action is a complicated process, which is why you need a law firm willing to navigate these procedural intricacies to fight for you (and your fellow class members). Contact us today if you think you may be a small part of a bigger problem. As they say, there’s “power in numbers.”
- Representing a putative class of Kia and Hyundai vehicle owners who sustained damages attributable to the vehicles’ design defects, which make them incredibly easy to steal. See Marvin, et al. v. Kia America, Inc. et al., Milwaukee County Case No. 2021-CV-003759
- Read more about the Kia/Hyundai Litigation here.
- Represented putative class of travelers who were denied refunds from their travel agency for pre-paid vacations that were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic; the case settled pre-suit under confidential terms that recouped the vast majority of the clients’ advanced payments.
- Represented health care company in a putative class action filed by plaintiffs alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Wisconsin Consumer Act. See Paige et al. v. Waukesha Health System, Inc., Case No. 12-C-0601 (E.D. Wis.)