10 Questions About Class Actions
- What is the difference between a consumer class action and a regular case? Basically, the named plaintiff seeks to represent numerous other consumers who have been the victim of similar misconduct by the defendants. The pattern of the business practice becomes particularly important in these cases, which may be assigned to a “complex litigation” department of the court.
- How do I know if I have a class action? An experienced class action attorney can give you advice. However, there are many resources, including the office of your state attorney general and non-profit consumer organizations, such as the National Association of Consumer Advocates who can point you in the right direction.
- What are some types of things Kemnitzer Barron & Krieg lawyers have brought as class actions? Car defects, false advertising, auto dealer forgery, deceptive insurance practices in self-storage units, defective repossession notices, lemon laundering, door-to-door sales scams and other For a description of some of the many class actions this firm has handled, click here.
- Who is the class representative? The named plaintiff can represent people who might not even come into court, if the judge in the case certifies the plaintiff(s) as class representative. The class representative is a special kind of plaintiff, who agrees to keep the interests of the other class members also in mind.
- Who are the class members? A class action sets out to define a class of people who can ultimately be identified as having been subject to the same or similar business practice. The other class members may or may not be witnesses if the case goes to trial, and they may or may not get identical relief. At the same time, all class members may be bound by the judgment in a subsequent action on the very same claim.
- Do class actions go to trial or do they all settle out of court? An overwhelming percentage of class actions settle prior to trial. However, class counsel should always be prepared to try the case before a judge or jury if a fair and adequate settlement cannot be reached. Make sure any class action lawyer you hire has actual trial experience.
- What should I know about my lawyer if I’m going to be a class representative? Class action litigation is more complicated than ordinary consumer litigation. You should always have experienced class counsel; in fact a judge will not certify a class if the attorneys are not “adequate and competent.” Your lawyer should know the subject area of the law, be responsive and responsible, have trial and appellate experience, and be financially sound in order to handle such a case.
- I tried contacting the company about my problem and they just won’t respond. In that case, you may need a lawyer. This economic meltdown has exposed the myth that the market will regulate itself. Sadly, companies profit from intimidating and ignoring consumers with valid complaints. Class actions often involve consumers whose individual claims are relatively small. There is strength in collective action and that gets the attention of management.
- I got a class action notice. What should I do? Read it carefully. Follow instructions. If you don’t understand it, contact the attorneys listed on the form. DO NOT let it sit in your mail basket for long. Class actions often have fairly short time periods for class members to respond and sometimes this is the difference between getting some form of recovery or not. For a sample of current and recent class notices sent by Kemnitzer Barron & Krieg appears in the section News & Notices, click here.
- Does every class member get the same thing in the end? Not necessarily. Your Class notice should describe any claims process and the nature of recovery for different sub-classes. If there is a claims process, be sure you send in your claim form by the deadline stated in the notice.
These questions and responses DO NOT constitute legal advice. They are intended to provide general information to improve your consumer literacy and give a broad understanding about how the marketplace works in the areas discussed. Consumer protection laws differ in different states. Even in California laws frequently change through legislative amendments, developing case law, and sometimes the effect of overriding federal regulations. Your legal rights and remedies will depend on your particular circumstances, documents and evidence. If you have further questions, just give us a call.