How and when to File a Class Action Lawsuit

The Class Action Lawsuit today is a unique facility of the civil law code, and does not exist in countries that still practice varying degrees of common law. Even though the class action lawsuit was born out of medieval common law courts, the invention of the corporation, nearly abolished what was at first considered group litigation, by relieving individual responsibility while maintaining individual profit. In modern times the types of class action lawsuits are governed by a set of rules placed by the state and federal government, or governing oversight bodies like the Federal Trade Commission.

The class action lawsuit must meet basic requirements by law, and plaintiffs are required to prove in pre-trial hearings that the lawsuit has/or is able to meet the standards of the law.

The first burden of proof is to establish the class part of the class action lawsuit.  The class is a group of plaintiffs who have been effected, or a group of defendants who have effected, by negligence or defect the rights of another group. In the past, these lawsuits have including corporations that have contaminated ground water to the adverse health of the local residents, manufactures releasing products that cause harm through defective labeling or manufacturing process, or companiec making false or misleading claims about a product..

Once the Class has been identified, the court must then certify the case by determining if the class is large enough that individual lawsuits would be impractical, also that the legal representation of the class has the ability to present the case to the court, and that the action is for the benefit of the class. Once these conditions have been satisfied, the court then moves to begin litigation.

One alternative to the class action lawsuit is for the individual to file a civil lawsuit, by opting out of the class action lawsuit. Heather Peters of California chose to opt out of a class action lawsuit filed against Honda for misleading consumers in reported gas mileage of hybrid vehicles. Had Heather remained with the class, she would have received a small amount of cash as well as a thousand dollar voucher toward the purchase of the same vehicle. Opting out and taking the automaker to small claims court netted Heather a judgment of a little more than nine thousand dollars.

The outcome of the Honda class action lawsuit is typical of most such suits, but when consumers are faced with companies that refuse, or deny responsibility a class action lawsuit can be the way to get the outcome needed to correct the problem.

Before looking to march up the steps of your local court house to start your class action lawsuit, research the problem to see if another class action lawsuit has been filed by a group in another state. State courts will handle these lawsuits if all the members are within the state jurisdiction, and if the total of the class action lawsuit is under seventy-five thousand dollars. When members of the class are outside of state lines and the total is above the Seventy-five thousand dollar mark, the class action lawsuit falls under federal jurisdiction.  If you are the first to file your lawsuit, start small, as in small claims court and file for the maximum allowed by your state. This can be done without the cost of an attorney, and is likely to garner the attention of other class members.

Once the ball starts rolling, be careful who you sign on with, as picking the wrong representation can bring the class action lawsuit to a screeching halt, if the conditions mentioned earlier are not met. In the end, most class action lawsuits are about principles, and forcing the group responsible to accept the responsibility for their actions.