Class action lawsuits allow a large group of people to be covered by one claim filed on their behalf. All plaintiffs in a class action suit must have a similar claim for damages. This is generally most effective when there are too many people involved in a claim for them to each file an individual lawsuit. The most common uses of class action lawsuits include securities fraud issues, hazardous products such as tobacco or asbestos, or mass violations of employment law. The plaintiff who files the case and represents the group is known as the Lead Plaintiff.
To become a class action lawsuit, the Lead Plaintiff must first file his or her claim, then request that the court certifies the class. Several criteria must be met in order for a class to become certified. All plaintiffs must be part of a "significantly large" group of people having the same or similar legal claims against the defendant. For example, class certification may not be granted if the plaintiffs have experienced different side effects in a hazardous drug claim. The Lead Plaintiff must be typical of the other class members and have no conflicts with them. He or she must also be willing to fight for the best possible outcome for the entire class and not just look out for their own personal interests.
Once the claim has been certified as a class action lawsuit, all potential members of the class must be notified of the pending action. This is generally done through direct mail, but television announcements and Internet postings are also becoming more common. All members of a class are automatically included in the action, unless they specifically opt out of the case. Only the Lead Plaintiff actually participates in the case and is involved in the decision to take a settlement. The one exception to this is when another class plaintiff has additional evidence to present to the court.
Once the recovery amount is decided by the court in a class action lawsuit, it must be divided among all of the plaintiffs. Attorney fees and court costs are usually taken off the top before anything is given to the plaintiffs. In some cases, the fees and costs are simply determined by taking a specific percentage of the entire compensation amount. The Lead Plaintiff is entitled to compensation based on their participation and time spent on handling the lawsuit. The remainder of the recovery amount is then split between the members of the certified class.
If you think you have been harmed or otherwise have a claim against a party, and you believe you're not the only one, Consult with an Attorney today to find out your legal options.