The average person often lacks the means to take on a big corporation after being harmed physically or financially by that company’s product or service. But when a large number of people with similar claims join forces, they have more power to seek rightful compensation, expose corporate wrongdoing and help set things right.
Consumers combating corporate wrongdoing
There are many state and federal laws that protect consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices, including consumer protection statutes that prohibit businesses from defrauding their customers. When businesses engage in violations of such laws that cause similar harm to numerous people, it may be possible to bring consumer claims collectively as a class action.
For example, corporations are not supposed to manufacture or sell defective products, overcharge consumers or use misleading sales tactics. If a company does one of these things, its customers may have the right to sue and seek class action status to benefit as many victims as possible.
Gaining class-action certification
The filing of a lawsuit as a class action doesn’t automatically confer class action status. Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which is essentially the rulebook for federal litigation, requires that the plaintiff file a motion asking the court to certify the case as a class action. Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that for a lawsuit to be certified as a class action, the proposed class representative must establish four things.
- The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impractical.
- There are questions of law or fact common to each member of the class.
- The claims or defenses of the representative parties who filed suit are typical of the rest of the class.
- The representative parties and their attorneys will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
In addition, the proposed class representative must establish that (1) the common questions of law and fact in the case predominate over the individual differences among class members, and (2) litigating the case as a class action would be superior to litigating numerous individual lawsuits.
Class actions are complex and highly specialized forms of civil litigation. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff cannot represent themselves in a class action – they must be represented by lawyers who are experienced in litigating class action lawsuits. If you believe that you are a victim of consumer fraud, you should find a trustworthy class action attorney.