At some point in their lives, most people will receive a notice stating that they can be part of a class-action suit. In many cases, they may not have even realized there was an issue. The ability of a group to file a lawsuit together has been around for centuries in European countries. In the United States, it was given legal legitimacy by Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story in the 1820 case of West v. Randall.
When someone finds that they qualify as part of a class action, they may wonder how to proceed. Joining a class may be automatic, or it may require approval by the individual. When considering participation in a class-action lawsuit, it is important to understand both the benefits and limits of this legal option.
What is a class-action lawsuit?
There are times when a person or business harms a group of individuals in the same way. In the HCG Platinum class action lawsuit, consumers accuse the company of making false claims about weight loss products. Thousands of people might suffer when they take the same defective medication. However, none of them may have the time or resources to file a claim alone. When the group bands together, they can bring a meaningful lawsuit against a single, more powerful defendant.
By filing a class action, they will minimize court costs and time by dealing with a single lawsuit for everyone. A lead plaintiff represents the group and works with a class-action law firm for the proceeding. In the end, they will split any compensation after handling the legal fees.
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Common Types of Class-Action Lawsuits
Most class action lawsuits fall into a limited number of categories. To file a suit, the plaintiffs must show that there are enough people affected that it would be impractical to pursue justice in another way.
Personal Injury and Liability
Every year, groups file lawsuits against companies because their products have caused injuries. A defective part in a car model can cause dangerous conditions for every owner. An improperly-produced batch of pharmaceuticals can have harmful side effects.
Groups may file suit against a company or school due to discriminatory hiring or acceptance practices. In 2014, a group of Asian-American students filed a lawsuit against Harvard University. They claimed that the school’s application and acceptance policies put them at a disadvantage.
It is tempting for businesses to exaggerate the benefits of products to increase sales. The HCG Platinum class action lawsuit accuses the company and its manager of fooling people by making false claims. In its advertising, the product claimed that users would lose up to two pounds per day and that HCG Platinum products were clinically proven to burn fat.
Who can be part of a class?
Anyone can be part of a class in a lawsuit so long as they have suffered damages from the same defendant. However, these complaints must be similar to those of the other plaintiffs. In reviewing the case, the court will determine the breadth of damages the plaintiffs can include in the class action.
Once the court determines the nature of the complaint, notification is the next step. Lawyers will reach out to potential class members. Legal teams use several different notification tools. If the class action revolves around a manufactured item, they will send a postcard or email to everyone they can find who made the same purchase. In medical cases, they may use mass media to seek people who have suffered specific side effects from a drug or treatment.
Pros of a Class-Action Lawsuit
Practical Option for Plaintiffs
Participating in a class-action lawsuit is a practical way for consumers to hold large corporations responsible for their practices. A complaint might be too small for an individual to pursue alone. However, a group of people filing the same complaint sends a stronger message.
Less Pressure on the Court System
Class actions save time and resources for the court system. If the court had to hear thousands of cases with the same complaint and evidence, it would significantly slow the justice system. In a class-action lawsuit, the court can hear all the evidence and rule on behalf of every plaintiff.
Consistent Treatment of Plaintiffs
Multiple trials would involve a variety of lawyers and judges handling the same complaint. With that many people in the mix, the results would be inconsistent. A class-action suit guarantees that every plaintiff will receive the same compensation.
Increased Chance of Settlement
Class action lawsuits are an involved process once they get to court. For this reason, many corporations are motivated to settle the case outside the courtroom. They would rather determine a fair settlement with the lawyers for the plaintiff than potentially deal with a larger penalty from the court.
Cons of a Class-Action Lawsuit
Loss of Personal Agency
When plaintiffs sign on as members of a class, they give up their right to sue as individuals in the complaint in question. Except for the lead plaintiff, class members do not have input into how the legal team conducts the trial. Many class members will only hear about the results when the proceeding is over.
Small Compensation Amounts
Class complaints are often about small issues that plaintiffs feel are not worth handling alone. However, this usually means the compensation is small. It is also important to remember that the legal team gets paid from the final compensation amount.
Lengthy Court Process
If a company does not settle the case quickly, a class-action lawsuit can become a lengthy process. These cases may take years to make their way through the court system.
No Further Recourse
Once the court reaches a verdict in a class-action suit, it is final. If the plaintiffs lose or are dissatisfied with the compensation, they do not have another option to pursue the case further. For this reason, some eligible people choose to opt out of classes to pursue an independent lawsuit.
A class-action lawsuit may be the best option for addressing a legal complaint against a larger, more powerful defendant. People who want to pursue this path should reach out to an experienced class-action attorney.