Movies like Class Action and Erin Brockovich have dramatized class action lawsuits and may have helped to make the public more aware of these specialized types of court cases. But what really goes on in a consumer class action lawsuit? Following is a brief guide to this form of litigation that helps to preserve consumer rights and hold companies — especially large organizations — accountable for their mistakes.
Who Has a Case for Class Action?
There are several types of consumer rights claims that can be combined to form class action lawsuits. Most often, these cases involve widespread product defects, violation of state consumer protection laws or mass accidents or disasters.
For example, a class action lawsuit may be brought against a food manufacturing company or restaurant chain whose products have caused an outbreak of illness, or an auto manufacturer with certain vehicle makes and models that experience frequent, similar safety issues.
Why Class Action Suits are Used
Generally, a class action lawsuit is used in cases where individual claims for reasonable damage would be too small to justify the cost of a personal lawsuit. By combining multiple small claims, the expense of litigation is justified. In addition, lawsuits with multiple plaintiffs have an improved chance of success against large corporations that are routinely able to defeat individual lawsuits.
How Consumer Class Action Lawsuits Happen
Class action suits are usually initiated by one or a few people, who file on behalf of a larger group, or “class,” of individuals who have experienced similar situations with the same company’s product or service. The lawsuit usually seeks compensation on behalf of the person or persons who filed, known as “named plaintiffs,” and for all the members of the class.
What Happens When You Receive a Notice of Settlement?
Many people receive notices of settlement in consumer class action lawsuits without prior knowledge of the proceedings, or their own status as a member of the class. These notices let you choose rather to opt in or opt out of a settlement. Typically, you will be automatically included unless you choose to opt out, an option you may choose if you decide to bring a personal claim to the case.
Be sure to read the notice carefully so you understand the terms of the settlement, and the choices you have. If you have been named as a class member in a class action lawsuit, you may want to consult an attorney to learn more about your options. The Miami trial lawyers at Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen have extensive experience with consumer class action lawsuits. Contact us today with your questions about a notice of settlement or a potential lawsuit.