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Basics of Class Action Lawsuits

Many Americans are familiar and comfortable with the idea of seeking justice through lawsuits against individuals, groups, or entities who are responsible for causing injuries or damage. Most Americans are also familiar, at least in name, with the terms “class-action lawsuit” and “mass tort litigation.” However, even those who have heard these terms before – and sometimes even those who use such terms themselves – are unclear as to what they actually mean.

Why, for example, would a class-action lawsuit be filed? How do they work? Are there legal requirements or criteria which determine whether a specific complaint, issue, or grievance can be resolved through a class-action?

Reasons for Class-Actions

One of the main goals of class-action lawsuits is efficiency. While litigation on an individual basis may be appropriate in, say, a car accident case, it may be tedious and redundant if a case involves thousands or hundreds of thousands of people with similar complaints. Imagine, for example, if thousands of people all wanted to sue a car manufacturer for the faulty brakes which caused their car accidents. Allowing each person to sue individually would only bog down the system and create legal chaos. Class-actions allow the legal system to group people with similar claims together and litigate their cases in one fell swoop.

Requirements for Filing a Class-Action

The requirements for filing class-action suits are outlined in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for cases at the federal level, and in state code at the state level, though requirements are usually similar. These requirements are generally logical and fairly intuitive, but still bear mention:

  • Large number of people affected – in order to qualify for a class-action, a sufficiently large enough number of people must have been affected, so that filing individual suits would be impractical.
  • Similar complaints or claims – plaintiffs in the case must have complaints or claims against the defendant which are similar enough to allow for litigation to be compressed into one unit. A large number of people with dissimilar claims would be logically unable to resolve their differing disputes in the same courtroom.

Furthermore, the Federal Rules for Civil procedure also require that the plaintiffs who actually appear at trial be accurate representatives of the group as a whole. In other words, the representatives must be “typical” of the rest of the group, rather than stand-out cases designed to curry favor with the jury.

To learn more about class-action lawsuits in the American legal system, visit the website of Milwaukee personal injury lawyers Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® at habush.com.