A class action lawsuit is basically a civil action brought in the form of a lawsuit usually by one individual or a small group of individuals (Lead plaintiffs) on behalf of a larger group of people or class that have experienced the same dissatisfaction from a product, experienced harm from the use or exposure to a substance, suffered financial loss through negligent advice, or have some complaint or grievance with a company or that company's claim to something. Class action lawsuits can be brought against a party in state court or federal court and can be moved from one court to another thanks to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005.
Class action lawsuits are typically filed when abuse or negligence by a company is widespread and there are numerous victims of the negligent action or inaction by the guilty party. These victims will often band together in a class action lawsuit that otherwise might not be filed because of limited resources. Frequently, people that have been victimized and are eligible to be part of a class action lawsuit will discover that they can be involved in a certain class action through a mailing from the law firm bringing a class action against a certain company.
Class actions lawsuits are commonly applied when there are many people affected by the company, product, service, or whatever the focus of the class action claim is determined to be. These class action lawsuits are used in place of individual and costly lawsuits by each victim of the offending company. A class action can be brought against a company that releases harmful prescription or over-the-counter medications, dispenses a product without revealing dangerous side effects, markets a product that was later found to be toxic or unsafe, products that cause harm because faulty design or skewed research, chemicals that were not tested correctly or long enough to determine harmful side effects, products that cause harm after continuous use, products that did not work as promised, destructive or unlawful environmental practices, employment violation cases, violations of constitutional laws, or financial fraud such as market manipulation or misrepresentation.
A lawsuit can only be classified as class action lawsuit if it meets certain criteria, which include:
Number of people – A class action lawsuit has to represent a number of people aside from the individual or small group of individuals that filed the original lawsuit. The quantity of plaintiffs can number as little 20 individuals or can be as numerous as millions of individuals.
Common facts about the harm to all individuals involved – All the victims of the lawsuit must have suffered the same or at least similar enough harm by the company in question to tie them all together as one plaintiff.
Claims of harm must be alike by all the victims – All the victims must make the same allegations of harm by the guilty company. They must all have a common thread linking them all together with the same complaint.
Legal representatives are defending the entire group – Lawyers actively defending the class must do so fairly for all individuals included in the lawsuit without conflicts of interest in representing any class members