How to join a class action lawsuit?

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Researcher: Ariana Arce​

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Journalist: Aaron Vivanco

Picture of Editor: Daniela Polo

Editor: Daniela Polo

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How to join a class action lawsuit?

To join a class action lawsuit, there are certain general rules and others that depend on the particular case. First, it is important to understand how a class action starts, as well as the process that will follow through until it reaches a settlement or a verdict. Read on and learn the details of this type of legal procedure.

lawyer and client sign a contract for the later to join a class action.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit is a legal procedure in which one or more plaintiffs file a lawsuit representing a larger group, also affected by the defendant (s) actions or omissions. To become a class, this group needs to be certified as such by a judge, that will evaluate the potential benefits of collecting all claims into one big lawsuit. 

Lawsuits claims that end up in class actions vary in topics, but there are frequent causes that can start a class action lawsuit, such as:

  • A defective or dangerous product that is used by hundreds or thousands of people.
  • An employment issue such as unpaid work hours.
  • Fraudulent activity that affects investors.
  • Fraudulent business activity that targets consumers. 

Sometimes, it may be difficult to know if your case could become a class action case or to determine if you are eligible to join a class action lawsuit that already exists. This is why we suggest doing a consultation with an experienced attorney. Contact us so we can help you.  

Class actions exist because they usually affect numerous groups of people that were damaged similarly by the same defendant (s). This legal procedure is usually more efficient and quick than handling many individual lawsuits. 

How to Start a Class Action Lawsuit?

This type of legal proceeding develops in compliance with certain rules established in the federal rule of civil procedure 23. Anyone can start a class action lawsuit, but often, groups need the guidance of an experienced attorney or law firm. The reason is that the proceedings may be very complex, and one mistake could ruin a collective effort to receive well-deserved compensation. There are four basic requirements for any class action:

  • The group of plaintiffs is so significant in number that the class action procedure becomes a more efficient way to handle them instead of individually.
  • The legal issues and facts have common grounds for all the people filing lawsuits.
  • One of the individual plaintiffs can rightfully represent the interest of the rest of the class. This becomes the lead plaintiff or representative. 

What Are the Steps to File a Class Action Lawsuit?

When all the above requirements are met, the course of a lawsuit could be as follows:

To file a complaint on behalf of the group with the help of an attorney. That first complaint establishes who the class action representative is, the factual and legal issues of the claim, and the name of the defendant. 

  • Wait for the defendant’s response, which is usually a rejection of the class action status and often, a denial of the charges. 
  • Obtain class certification. The class representative needs to file a motion to ask for this since the court is the one that has the final word to certify the group of plaintiffs as a class. 
  • Notify the members of the class. Many times, class action members don’t know they are being part of this type of legal action. They receive a notice by mail, through the media, or through the Internet. 
  • Wait for the class members to opt in or out. This is a right of class members that consider they don’t want to be part of the collective lawsuit. 
  • Notice of settlement or verdict. The lead plaintiff gives notice about the amounts and other details of the settlement to all members and then arranges the payments with the lead plaintiff’s counsel. 
  • Pay and distribute the reward. This payment usually happens in this order: the law firm or attorneys cash out first, followed by the lead plaintiff, and then, the rest of the members.

Sometimes, there is leftover money from settlements because certain members of the class couldn’t be reached. In these cases, the funds can go to a cy-pres award, a donation to causes related to the lawsuit. The money can be also redistributed among the class members. 

How To Become the Lead Plaintiff of a Class Action Lawsuit?

The representative of the class has to be someone with similar claims to the rest of the class, this is, someone who has been harmed by the same product or service and that suffered the same or resemblant physical or financial injuries. They may be also more than one person. 

Being a class representative requires not only someone named lead plaintiff but also, someone with certain duties and rights. Some of their main responsibilities include:

  • Hire a class-action attorney or law firm to guide the class through the legal procedures.
  • File the lawsuit against the defendant, but always with the help of the attorney.
  • Consult with the class action attorney every time an issue arises among the class, including questions, comments, concerns, and relevant episodes that may have repercussions on the legal action. 
  • Bring relevant evidence to the attorney, and give depositions and/or court testimonies if necessary.
  • Agree or disagree with the terms of a settlement, after consulting with the whole class. 

Also, the lead plaintiff could be entitled to a larger share of the final payout, if the judge or jury considers that would be fair. 
In any case, feel free to make a free consultation with experienced mass tort attorneys, who can guide you through the class action procedure.