Nearly everyone has heard of some type of class action. Whether that is from a friend, on TV through those annoying commercials with people attempting to get you to join, or from various junk mail. But what really is a class action?
Class actions are governed by Rule 23 of the rules of civil procedure. It enables a small group of representatives to represent a large group composing of individuals who have claims against one or similar defendants. Personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction must both be met for a class action to be valid.
A class action also requires that:
- The size of the plaintiffs
- The class bringing the lawsuit be numerous
- That there is a common issue of material fact amongst the group
- That all the claims are similar in nature
- That the representatives chosen for the group will be able to represent all the people represented.
Types of Class Actions
Under Rule 23 there are many types of class actions. You have likely heard of class actions involving drug companies, car companies, and other manufacturers. Most class actions tend to involve anti prejudice measures, injunctions, and some form of damages. The damages class tends to be the most common type in the United States. A court will only allow a class action if it would be in the best interest of all those involved so that multiple claims and multiple people do not have to constantly re-litigate the same matter at hand.
If you do not want to be involved in a class action lawsuit you can opt out, and the final valid judgment on the merits will only involve those that were in the class action lawsuit. It should be noted that if you fail to opt out the final judgment will be binding on you!
The Court will determined jurisdiction based on the representatives chosen. If they did it based on all the members of the class itself, they would take up their entire time doing that instead of working on the case! The Class Action Fairness Act tends to help with such issues as well.
At this time the court will also make the final decision about allowing a class action to even occur. They will determine this by looking at who the class consists of, their claims, potential evidence and if the counsel appointed can truly represent them. The court must also approve any settlement that might occur between the two sides.