A class action lawsuit is a legal suit filed against a defendant by a group of individuals with a common interest who may not be able to pursue individual cases.
To successfully pursue a class action lawsuit within Wisconsin, the class must meet the following criteria:
- The class is very large such that individual lawsuits would be impractical
- The class has a common interest with respect to the facts and laws of the case
- The class representative’s claims accurately reflect other class members’ experiences
- The representative is capable of fairly protecting and pursuing the interests of the entire class
If the class is certified, the plaintiff (class representative) will move forward with the case on behalf of all class members.
Mass tort actions or an MDL (multi-district legislation) are similar to class action lawsuits in some respects. However, they follow slightly different procedural rules. Pursuing a tort or MDL lawsuit may make more sense if individuals suffered a wide range of injuries or if several jurisdictions play a role in the case.
>>Learn more: 3 Types of Class Action Lawsuits
6 Steps of a Class Action Lawsuit
If you believe you have been involved in a situation that warrants a class action lawsuit, the first thing you should do is document any injuries or financial harm you have suffered. For example, if a product has injured you or a family member, be sure to get photos of the products as well as medical records documenting the injuries.
You should then contact an experienced class action attorney who can help you organize your claim. The attorney will then proceed with the following steps:
1. Determine Whether a Class Action Suit can be Filed
The attorney needs to evaluate the claim and make sure it has merit and can be brought as a class action. This can be accomplished by:
- Determining how many other people have also been injured
- Checking to see if there is already a similar lawsuit on file
- Checking into the statute of limitations
- Reviewing past rulings and judicial opinions to see if similar suits were successful
2. File the Lawsuit
The attorney will draft the complaint, a legal document describing the facts of the case and the damages being sought. The complaint will describe the proposed “class” of people who could be covered by the lawsuit.
3. Certifying the Class
A judge presiding over the case will hear arguments for and against class certification and make a determination.
This is the investigation part of a lawsuit where attorneys can request documents from the company being sued. These documents are used to prove allegations and damages.
5. Settlement or Trial
If the suit settles before going to a trial, a fund could be set up by the defendant to compensate the victims. If the suit does not settle, it will go before a jury in a court of law. The case could still settle during trial, but if it does not, the jury will decide the outcome.
6. Notify the Class Members
After a resolution of the case, attorneys may issue a notice to the members of the suit letting them know about the settlement or judgement.
If you believe you belong to a class that is involved in a lawsuit, but you have not been notified, there are ways to find the information you need to be a class member:
- Local newspapers carry legal notices with information on class actions
- You can also find this information online
Typically, information is available regarding the law firm/attorneys involved. You can use this information to contact the firm and express interest in being involved
Whether you are looking to start or join a class action lawsuit, you need an attorney that can help you gain a deeper understanding of your rights.