Consumer class action lawsuit is among the most widespread form of adjudication in the United States. The general purport of a class action lawsuit is to unite people claiming similar injuries or damage from the same largest private or corporate entities. A lawsuit is brought by a lead or representative plaintiff(s) on behalf of all members of the group (class members).
Class actions give people the ability to claim small losses. Attorneys might not be able to protect interests of vehicle owners, who want to sue automaker over a few hundred dollars, whereas the possibility of the united monetary award on behalf of class members makes it feasible since it will make sense for a lawyer (or lawyers) to invest his time and money into the case.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 is a legal basis for class action. According to it, an appropriate class action lawsuit can be determined by 4 factors – numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequate representation.
Actually, there is no fixed number for how many consumers need to have faced the defect or suffered the injury to make filing a class action lawsuit possible. Similar claims have to be more than could soundly be anticipated to file their individual lawsuits. In general, a class action lawsuit becomes a possibility when nearly 40 consumers have similar claims.
The second factor, commonality, refers to the similarity of the claims. Actually, all the claims must have common questions of law or factual disputes so that they can be settled within the limits of the same lawsuit.
The third element, typicality, is satisfied when the claims of class members are typical (not to confuse with identical!), i.e. arise from the same event (course or practice) which is the basis of other class members` claims. Typicality and commonality are closely interrelated, and usually, if there is a commonality, there is typicality either.
To ascertain whether the proposed lead plaintiff adequately represents the interests of class members, two criteria are taken into consideration: a) whether he/she will be able to adequately defend class members` interests b) whether there can arise conflicts of interests between representative plaintiff and class members. This factor is crucial because class members are bound by the outcome of the class action lawsuit, they must accept them as they can`t file individual lawsuits.
Every state has its own procedure of conducting a class action lawsuit but actually, it resembles the Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After a class action lawsuit is defined by the judge all potential plaintiffs get notifications by mail and advertisements in newspapers and on TV. Vehicle owners who fall within the defined range of the class action are automatically included in the case. But if they want to file their own lawsuit they have right to opt out of the class action. In case if class members win the class action monetary damages are distributed according to a plan designed by the judge and the plaintiffs` attorney. In case if the class action is settled the settlement must be approved by the judge either. The judge is also responsible for saying how and how much the lawyers will be paid.