Cases We Handle
Since 1999, The Consumer Advocacy Center, P.C. has represented clients in both individual and class action lawsuits. Class action lawsuits are brought by plaintiffs who represent a large group of individuals who are similarly situated and who have similar claims. Class action lawsuits often allege claims involving consumer fraud, investment and securities fraud, employment and wages, product liability, insurance and consumer finance. We are frequently recommended by our peers to handle class actions.
- What Is A Class Action
- Who Is the Class Representative
- What is Class Certification
- Do I have special duties and responsibilities as a class representative
- Some of the Pros to being a class representative
- Some of the Cons to being a class representative
What Is A Class Action?
A class action is a lawsuit where one person (you), who will be called the class representative, brings the case on behalf of yourself and everyone else that the same thing happened to. One court explained a class action as follows:
A class action permits a large group of claimants to have their claims adjudicated in a single lawsuit. This is particularly important where . . . a large number of small and medium sized claimants may be involved. In light of the awesome costs of discovery and trial, many of them would not be able to secure relief if class certification were denied. In Re Folding Carton Antitrust Litigation, 75 F.R.D. 727, 732 (N.D. Ill. 1977).
Who Is the Class Representative?
In this case, you are. The heading of the court documents will have your name, and will state, “individually and on behalf of others similarly situated.” This means you are fighting for all the people in the same situation as you. It is an important responsibility, because the outcome of your case can affect everyone else.
What is Class Certification?
Class certification is a ruling by a judge stating that your case can proceed as a class action. Although we file the lawsuit as a class action, it does not become one until a judge says so and “certifies” the class. For the judge to certify a case as a class action, the case must usually pass six tests (depending on the state in which we bring your case or if we pursue it under federal law, it may be more). Although you do not need to memorize these tests, they are as follows:
- Numerosity: This means there are enough individuals to make up a class. Although it can be fewer, usually more than 50 persons are enough.
- Commonality: This means that there is a common question of law or fact, which must be answered in the same way for every member of the class. In other words, the law that you say the Defendant violated must be violated in the same way by the Defendant as to everyone else in the class.
- Typicality: This means that your claim is typical of everyone else’s (i.e., the same thing happened to them that happened to you).
- Adequacy: In order to pass this test, you must prove to the court that you know your responsibilities as a class representative and that your lawyers are experienced and are going to work hard on this case.
- Predominance: This means that the common issues (applicable to everyone) outweigh the individual issues (applicable to just you or some other individuals). If commons issues were on one side of a scale, and individual issues on the other, we must show that the scale will tip in favor of the common issues.
- Superiority: The court must find that the class action is a better method for litigating the case – is it easier and more manageable if all the claims are put together.
Do I have special duties and responsibilities as a class representative?
Yes. You must:
- Understand The Case. Since you get to pick the lawyer for everyone else and make decisions that may determine other people’s rights, you need to keep yourself informed. Nobody wants to be bound by the decisions of an uninformed decision-maker. What this means is that you need to have a basic understanding of your claims. And you need to ask your lawyer questions if you don’t understand what is going on.
- You Must Keep In Contact With Your Lawyers and Make Sure They Do A Good Job. You picked the lawyer in this case. And it’s your job to make sure the lawyers do a good job. Although this is a class action, you are the boss. You need to make sure that you’re happy with the work your lawyer is doing.
- You Must Make Fair Decisions for Everyone. If you were bringing this case alone, you would only need to make decisions for you. But because this is a class case, you must make decisions that are fair to everyone in the class. You need to think of the class when you make decisions, includes any decision about whether to settle the case.
- You May Have to Give A Deposition and Answer Questions Under Oath. Just like in any case, you may have to answer questions under oath about your claim. This usually takes a few hours of your time and may require taking a day off work. Although this is something you might have to do in any lawsuit, it is especially important in a class case because it is your opportunity to show the Defendant and the Court that you are able to handle the responsibility of being a class representative.
By now, you might be wondering, why would I want to be a class representative? This is a good question, and an important one. If you do not really feel like you want to be a class representative, then you should not be one. There are pros and cons to being a class representative, some of which we’ve listed here to help you make your decision.
Some of the Pros to being a class representative:
- As A Class Representative You Get To Fight Back Against Wrongdoing And Help Other People. Remember how you felt after you were treated unfairly? Well, if the Defendant did this to other people, then they probably feel the same way. Remember, before you met your lawyer, you probably felt like there was nothing you could do about the situation. You probably felt no one would take an interest in your problem. If you want to help stop the Defendant from doing wrong in the future, a class action is a great way to do it.
- As A Class Representative You Help Our Judicial System Function Effectively. You’ve probably heard about how crowded the courts are. Sometimes it takes a long time to get to trial. In a class action, a lot of individual’s rights are decided at the same time, so it helps our courts be more efficient. It’s sometimes better to have one case, with one person fighting for hundreds of people than to have hundreds of cases with everyone fighting only for him or herself.
- A Class Action Is A Good Way To Deal With A Smaller Claim. Most consumer frauds involve what would normally be called a small claim — a claim less than $2500. By filing a class action, your small claim may be taken more seriously. And your lawyer can fight harder because there is power in numbers. Economically, it doesn’t make sense to pay court costs and spend hundreds of hours of attorney time on a $350 claim. But if there are several hundred, or even a thousand, $350 claims, the case is worth a lot more and a good lawyer can take the time to work on your case.
Some of the Cons:
- You Have To Do A Little More Work Than In An Individual Case. Because you are fighting for everyone, you need to do a little more work, such as asking questions of your lawyer, reading court documents, and taking the time to think of everyone else. Sometimes, because of the extra work, the Court may give you what called an “incentive award.” This means you can get more money damages because of the additional time and responsibility spent being a class representative. Of course, that’s not a guarantee, and it depends on the individual case; but it’s something to think about.
- Your Decision-Making Ability Is More Limited. If we brought this case just for you, your decisions would not have to be approved by anyone. In a class action, however, the Court must approve some of your decisions, including your decisions about settlement. So you are not the only one with power to decide what happens.