Class Action Law | Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck, LLP
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1. WHAT IS A CLASS ACTION AND WHY WOULD SOMEONE BRING A CLASS ACTION?
A class action is a lawsuit brought by an individual or company on behalf of a large group of people who have the same or similar problems or injuries.
People file class actions because they have been injured and feel that others may have been injured in the same manner and bringing an individual lawsuit is not practical because it would be too expensive relative to the individual’s loss. In this instance, the individual or entity, as a “representative” of the larger group, may bring a Class Action lawsuit on behalf of tens, hundreds, or even millions of others who have been similarly injured. This allows the individual’s claims, as well as that of the larger group, to be represented in court with lawyers working on a contingency fee basis when otherwise their claims would not have been brought.
2. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A CLASS ACTION?
Class Actions are based on the idea that there is strength in numbers. Class Actions allow individuals who would not otherwise be able to bring a lawsuit to do so in order to challenge unfair, unsafe, or illegal practices. While a Class Action may seem overwhelming to a single individual, this type of suit can successfully bring about reform or stop unfair practices more successfully than can an individual claim. Class Actions have been used to promote civil rights, consumer rights, employee rights, the right to fair housing, the right to medical care, and is also used to protect against securities fraud and antitrust violations. Class Actions have promoted the rights of persons injured by cigarettes, defective tires, defective vehicles, asbestos, Agent Orange, breast implants, and many other defective and harmful products. Often, it is the possibility or eventuality of a Class Action that helps the government enforce its laws, makes business practices safer, keeps unfair business practices in check and compensates consumers or investors for wrongdoing that harmed them.
3. HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT?
Various laws are in place to protect your rights as a consumer or investor to prevent businesses or other entities from injuring you or treating you unfairly. The government, however, clearly does not have the resources to monitor every action a business takes and to enforce all of those laws. Inadvertently or deliberately, a business or other entity may violate a law or contract or act in a way that it is unfair, illegal or unsafe for the public. It may be on such a small scale at the individual level that the violation goes unchecked, but the same violation is taking place over and over again, affecting dozens or millions of people. This is a classic situation leading to a Class Action lawsuit. Corporations may not correct a wrong voluntarily where doing so is expensive, unprofitable or embarrassing. In bringing a Class Action you will be seeking to end an unsafe, unfair and/or illegal activity and obtain compensation for the Class. If you think you have a potential class action, contact us today or call us at 619-342-8000.
4. WHAT DOES IT COST TO BRING A CLASS ACTION?
It does not cost the person bringing the class action any money to bring the lawsuit because such cases are brought by attorneys working on a contingent fee basis. “Contingent fee” means that attorneys do not get paid unless the lawsuit is successful. The attorneys advance the money and time needed for the lawsuit on behalf of the representative and the Class. If the Class Action is successful, the attorneys apply to the court for an award of their fees and reimbursement of expenses. It is up to the court to determine the fee, and the attorneys alone risk the possibility of not getting paid.
5. WHAT IS A CLASS REPRESENTATIVE?
Only one Representative is required to bring a Class Action. A Class Representative is typically an individual or a company that believes it has been wronged, realizes that others are being injured similarly, wants the offending practice to end, and wants to be compensated with the other members of the Class for money damages. A Class Representative is one of the named or “lead” plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
6. HOW DO I BECOME A CLASS REPRESENTATIVE?
An individual or entity that feels it has been wronged, and realizes that others are likely being injured as well, should contact us or another law firm that is experienced in and specializes in Class Actions. The attorneys at Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck will meet with that person and then examine the matter to determine the best course of action based on our evaluation of the merits of the case. If we decide to go forward in bringing the Class Action, the individual or group would act as the Class Representative and we would typically work under a contingency fee arrangement. There may be more than one potential Representative. We would then bring the lawsuit in the person’s name, both individually, and on behalf of a defined Class of similarly situated persons.
7. WHAT IS EXPECTED OF A CLASS REPRESENTATIVE?
The Class Representative does not need to pay any money to bring the suit, but may have to provide paperwork and background information relative to the case. Over the course of the lawsuit, the Representative may have to answer questions about the case, including sitting for a deposition. The Representative would be guided and assisted in these matters by his or her attorneys. Over the course of the lawsuit the Representative will be called upon to periodically assist in the suit and help make all major case decisions with the advice of their lawyers. If the suit is successful, the Representative generally receives extra compensation (with court approval) for their time and contribution.
8. WHAT STEPS ARE INVOLVED IN A CLASS ACTION AND DOES IT LAST A LONG TIME?
After the attorneys thoroughly investigate the facts and examines the law that will correct the wrong, a letter may be sent to the alleged wrongdoers to try and obtain the desired relief without litigation. If the law firm decides to proceed with litigation, it will file a lawsuit with the Representative as lead plaintiff. The attorneys will then ask the court to certify the suit as a class action, and if the case meets the legal requirements, the court will certify the case as a Class Action and the case will move forward. As appropriate and with the Representative’s authorization, the attorneys may negotiate with the opposing counsel to obtain a reasonable compromise or settlement for the Class. Although every case is different, it typically takes several years to achieve a successful resolution to a Class Action lawsuit.
9. WHAT ARE SOME TYPES OF CLASS ACTIONS?
Class Actions can arise in any instance in which large numbers of individuals or entities are injured by the same or similar practice.
10. WHAT TYPES OF CLASS ACTIONS DOES THIS FIRM PURSUE?
We evaluate and pursue any and all types of potential Class Actions, including those for consumer fraud, product liability, wage and hour violations, securities fraud and antitrust violations.