What is a Class Action? Class Action FAQs

class actions

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What is a Class Action?

Class Action FAQs

(1) What is a class action?
(2) What are the advantages of class actions?
(3) What is the difference between a class action and “mass tort” litigation?
(4) When is a class action not an appropriate way to seek compensation?
(5) How can Audet & Partners, LLP help you pursue a class action claim?

(1) What is a class action?

    • A class action is a process in which one or more persons or businesses represent a group of similarly situated individuals or businesses.
    • In federal court, the process is provided for under the federal rules of civil procedure, Rule 23.
    • Class actions in state courts are governed by similar procedures, with some variations regarding the process of obtaining certification.

(2) What are the advantages of class action?

    • Aggregation of the class members claims will increase the efficiency of the legal process, and lower the costs of litigation for the class members. In cases with common questions of law and fact, aggregation of claims into a class action will likely avoid the necessity of repeating “days of the same witnesses, exhibits and issues from trial to trial.” (quote from oft cited case, Jenkins v. Raymark Indus. Inc., 782 F.2d 468, 473 (5th Cir. 1986) (granting certification of a class action involving asbestos)).
    • As the United States Supreme Court has noted, a class action may overcome the reality of the fact that “small recoveries do not provide the incentive for any individual” to file an individual (cited in Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 617 (1997) ).
    • With the class action process, a corporate wrongdoer who engages in widespread harm, is obligated at the end of the day to in fact those individuals for their injuries.
    • The class action process not only provides a mechanism for restitution and other payments to the class members, but also deters future wrongdoing by the same defendant (and even others).
    • Class actions also have the benefit of modifying behavior of not only a defendant, but of the others in an industry. Under the Rule 23, a defendant or set of defendants can be sued in an effort to protect certain rights of others. This tool has been used in a variety of cases and claims, including privacy rights, civil rights and discrimination based claims.
    • In “limited fund” cases, a class action ensures that all plaintiffs have the potential to obtain monetary benefits on an equitable basis (as opposed to first to file, first to recover). In Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., 527 U.S. 815 (1999), the United States Supreme Court emphasized that class actions provide for an orderly manner of allocation of limited funds. A class action in such a situation centralizes all claims into one venue where a court can equitably divide the assets amongst all the plaintiffs if they win the case.
    • A class action, in some situations, avoids the situation where different court rulings could create “incompatible standards” of conduct for the defendant to follow. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(1)(A). For example, a court might certify a case for class treatment where a number of individual bond-holders sue to determine whether they may convert their bonds to common stock. Refusing to litigate the case in one trial could result in different outcomes and inconsistent standards of conduct for the defendant corporation. Thus, courts will generally allow a class action in such a situation. See, e.g., Van Gemert v. Boeing Co., 259 F. Supp. 125 (S.D.N.Y. 1966).

(3) What is the difference between a class action and “mass tort” litigation?

    • The Advisory Committee Notes to federal class action rules note that mass torts are ordinarily “not appropriate” for class treatment. Class treatment may not improve the efficiency of a mass tort because the claims frequently involve individualized issues of law and fact that will have to be re-tried on an individual basis. See Castano v. Am. Tobacco Co., 84 F.3d 734 (5th Cir. 1996) (rejecting nationwide class action against tobacco companies).
    • Mass torts also involve high individual damage awards; thus, the absence of class treatment will not impede the ability of individual claimants to seek justice.

(4) When is a class action not an appropriate way to seek compensation?

    • Not every client’s case should proceed as a ‘class action.’
    • At Audet & Partners, LLP, our attorneys will provide you with an evaluation of the best way to proceed so as to maximize your compensation for injuries suffered.
    • In some cases, Audet & Partners, llp will represent business in an individual non-class basis in order to maximize the potential recovery for the client.

(5) How can Audet & Partners, LLP help you pursue a class action claim?

    • Many law firms promote themselves as ‘class action’ law firms. If you are considering whether to retain a law firm, you need to not only look at their cases, but the results achieved and the philosophy driving the firm’s practice.
    • In reality, only a limited number of law firms in the United States have the resources, expertise and commitment to successfully prosecute class action cases.
    • The Attorneys at Audet & Partners, LLP have significant experience in reviewing, investigating and prosecuting class action cases, and as a plaintiff’s only law firm, the firm has no potential conflicts by representing ‘both sides’ on the same issue.
    • We avoid ‘coupon’ oriented settlements, instead focusing on monetary and non-monetary relief that benefit the class as a whole.

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