Imagine your doctor prescribes a certain medication to help you regulate a health condition, but that medication gives you cancer. We have little choice but to trust the advice of healthcare providers. When that advice harms us, whether because the doctor was negligent or because an underlying factor such as a dangerous medication caused the harm, someone should be held accountable. What if the same, or similar, harm impacted thousands of other innocent people?
The idea behind class action lawsuits is that a group of people who have a similar claim against a company or a group of defendants, sue together. This means they don’t have to duplicate their work, and individual claimants save money. Most of the time in class action suits, the lawyer is able to finance the case. Plaintiffs rarely have out of pocket expenses. The costs of the lawsuit and the attorney’s fees are funded out of the lawsuit’s recovered funds.
In the United States, the Rules of Civil Procedure, and specifically Rule 23, govern Class Action Lawsuits. One provision states that once a class is “certified” in a lawsuit, all members of the class are bound by the ruling unless they opt out before the ruling. For example, if a class action lawsuit is initiated for “Chevrolet Corvette owners of cars made between 2005 and 2015,” all owners of Corvettes made in those years are a party to the lawsuit whether they have signed on to it or not, unless they specifically sign a legal paper saying they do not wish to be a party to the action. If they sign such a document, they are free to pursue no action, or to pursue a separate action on their own.
Another feature of Rule 23 is that all lawsuits of more than $5 million are automatically moved from state court to federal court. Lawsuits under $5 million with plaintiffs from many different states are also to be filed in federal court.
Rule 23 further requires:
- Certification as a Class
- Defining Scope of Class
- Notification (whether by media, mail, etc.)
- How to Opt Out
- Appointing of Counsel (usually the attorney who filed the case, but not always)
- Plan for Distribution of Damages
The main advantage of class action lawsuits is that they allow multiple plaintiffs to receive compensation for their damages even if those individual payouts are small. Let’s face it, lawsuits are expensive. If each plaintiff were to sue individually, the costs might outweigh the return. It could also take an excessive amount of the court’s time to hear what is essentially the same case hundreds of times.
Class action lawsuits also ensure that damages are spread out fairly among plaintiffs. This way, the first person to sue doesn’t get all the money, bankrupt the company, and leave nothing for other plaintiffs. The plan for distribution of damages ensures just compensation.
The Goldwater Law Firm – Nationwide Personal Injury Attorneys
If you have been harmed in any type of accident, or due to defective products, dangerous prescription drugs, or another’s negligence, the Goldwater Law Firm’s personal injury team can help. We have extensive experience with all types of injury cases. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.